Page 199 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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MEHLMAN/FROM A BIBLIOPHILE’S MEMOIRS
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dilemma. It is not easy for a bibliophile to part from his library,
and even more difficult was the decision as to whom to present it.
I had high regard for the Jerusalem library as a central cultural
institution not only for the State o f Israel but also for the entire
Jewish people. At the same time, I felt a strong emotional attach­
ment to the Tel-Aviv University which I helped to establish and in
which I was active for some years as a board member and a
department head.
DISPOSAL OF BOOKS
Following some brief spirited negotiations, a tripartite agree­
ment was concluded. The Jerusalem library would receive 2,000
volumes which were not among its holdings, and the balance —
about 25,000 Judaica items — would go to the Tel-Aviv Univer­
sity. My library was acquired for a token sum and the question o f
finances hardly figured at all in the negotiations. Various propos­
als that had come from outside Israel were rejected out o f hand.
Often I have been asked by many: “Don’t you regret giving up
your library?” My answer has been: “definitely not.” When I visit
the Beth Hatefutsot in Tel-Aviv, where my library is housed, I see
old and young readers making use o f my books, and I enjoy the
sight.
The information that reaches me concerning the use o f the
“Mehlman Collection” at the Jerusalem library by researchers
and scholars gives me pleasure. I will reveal also that I am already
enthusiastically engaged in rebuilding my library and that it is
already o f scholarly and bibliophilic value. A veteran bibliophile
enjoys an advantage: more than being the pursuer o f books, the
books pursue him.
II
How are rare books acquired? A book lover should possess a
number o f qualities and chief among them is— patience. Some­
times the negotiations are tiring and last for months and even
years. I will relate some incidents that took place, for example,
during the days o f the British Mandate in Palestine.
Once I was invited by a respected Jewish immigrant from an
Oriental country to see a rare book that dated from the early days
o f printing. I accepted his invitation willingly. The showing o f the