Page 9 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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JACOB KABAKOFF
Introduction
C
o m in g
c l o s e
u p o n
t h e
h e e l s
o f the New York Public Li­
brary exhibition
A Sign and a Witness:
2000 Years o f Hebrew
Books and Illuminated Manuscripts, the exhibition at the
Pierpont Morgan Library o f Hebraica from the Valmadonna
T rus t Library (February 15-May 7, 1989) was an added treat
for the booklover. Already the NYPL event had whetted the
appetite for viewing the Valmadonna Library treasures, for it
had included two colorful items from its holdings, which are
located in London. The Morgan Exhibition offered a veritable
feast, for it brought together a group o f 50 manuscripts and
rare books which were presented for the first time outside o f
London.
Those who were not privileged to view the Valmadonna trea ­
sures themselves have an opportunity to savor their beauty by
consulting the finely wrought catalogue o f the exhibition p re ­
pared by Brad Sabin Hill, who served as curator. The catalogue,
entitled
Hebraica:
Manuscripts and Early Printed Books From
the Library o f the Valmadonna T rust, contains descriptions o f
each o f the 50 items that were displayed together with facing
illustrative plates, o f which several are in color.
The Valmadonna T rus t, which originated in Italy and took
its name from an Italian village, has the distinction o f being
the largest privately held collection o f early and ra re Hebrew
books. Its holdings include over 40 incunabula, hund reds o f
manuscripts, and a horde o f ra re books. At first it specialized
in books o f 16th century Italy but its scope was extended to
cover o ther areas as well.
The catalogue’s introduction offers not only a description o f
the Valmadonna Library but also an excursus on early Hebrew
printing which is its forte. It presents an account o f the p e r ­
secution and censorship which led to the burn ing o f the Talmud
and o ther works and which were responsible for the rarity o f