Page 58 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
of its publications.” And it set up other necessary administrative
regulations. Presumably to assure the Society’s basic character,
the Constitution explicitly limited membership, which entailed
voting rights, only to people “of the Jewish faith.” Non-Jews
interested in receiving the Society’s publications had to apply as
non-voting “subscribers.”11
By the time it was six months old, then, the Jewish Publication
Society had an impressive outer appearance. It already boasted a
constitution, a formidable array of officers and committee mem­
bers, a circular stating its aims and principles, and a treasury
filled with over $ 11,000, including the original five thousand dol­
lar bequest from financier Jacob Schiff and a matching gift from
the industrialist Meyer Guggenheim. Membership was still small
— less than two thousand, most of them Philadelphians — but a
drive to increase membership was underway, and leading Jews
from around the country had “accepted the task of organizing
their respective cities and states.”12 At the same time, the Publica­
tion Committee, led by Mayer Sulzberger, was planning the Soci­
ety’s initial publications.
Thereafter the Society developed quickly. Its first book was
Lady Katie Magnus’s
Outlines ofJewish History
(1890), a popular
history textbook reprinted from a volume prepared for English
Jews, with the addition of new illustrations, valuable chronolog­
ical tables, and most important of all, new chapters covering
American Jewish history. The volume filled a long-felt need, and
won wide acceptance: tens of thousands of copies were sold and
demand was such that a revised edition was published in 1929.
Other books — fiction and non-fiction, popular and serious —
followed in its wake, usually at the rate of three or four a year.
By 1893, the Society had grown sufficiently to move into offices
of its own. That same year, Henrietta Szold was appointed to a
full-time salaried position as “Secretary o f the Publication
Committee” — in effect editor. Her tireless efforts, wondrous
administrative capabilities, and natural brilliance made all of the
difference in the two decades that followed. Early in her career,
in 1898, the Society completed publication of Heinrich Graetz’s
History of the Jews,
translated from the German by Bella Loewy.
Issued as a six volume set, including Henrietta Szold’s magnifi-
11
Ibid.
12
American Hebrew
(December 21, 1888), p. 132.