Page 193 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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The Karp Collection of American
i n
t h e
n t r o d u c t i o n
to his two-volume comprehensive bibli­
ography of early American Judaica,
Judaica Americana,
Singerman mentions his
trip to Rochester, New York, in September, 1988 to meet with
Prof. Abraham J. Karp, creator o f a collection o f American Ju­
daica that is today the finest and most extensive in private hands.
The collection had its beginning forty years earlier with the
purchase at the Ideal Book Store, adjoining the Columbia Uni­
versity campus, of
Seder Divre Tsadikim: The Book of Daily Prayers
for Every Day of the Year. According to the Custom of the German
and Polish Jews,
printed by C. Sherman for its editor and trans­
lator, Isaac Leeser, Philadelphia, 1848. The price was one dollar,
and the copy was a magnificent example of bookmaking — the
paper white and firm, the typography both Hebrew and English
beautifully designed and sharply cut, the binding a rich red
morocco enhanced by graceful gold embossing.
This beautiful prayerbook re-oriented my scholarly interest
from European to American Jewish history (I was studying with
Prof. Salo Baron at that time) and started me collecting Amer­
ican Judaica, anything in print which threw light on the Amer­
ican Jewish historical experience.
My love for books predated the beginning of my Americana
collection. I had acquired that love from my father, who trea­
sured the Hebrew book, and took me with him on his forays
to the many Hebrew bookstores that once dotted New York.
Although most of our journeys in those Depression years were
“window-shopping,” I got to know some of the legendary Jewish
book dealers who were not only learned bibliophiles but also
colorful components of the Hebraic cultural scene.