Page 194 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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186
JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
The love for the book was fortified and refined by two of
my teachers at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
As my “library service” (required of all rabbinical students), I
spent a year and a half cataloguing the six thousand volume
library of the late Professor Ismar Elbogen, under the guidance
of Professor Alexander Marx. Professor Louis Finkelstein in­
troduced me, when I served as his research assistant, to the
world of medieval manuscripts.
The Leeser prayerbook was actually the third item of Amer­
ican Jewish interest in my slowly growing book collection, which
I had started while at the Seminary. Before putting my newest
acquisition on the self, I searched my “library” for Americana
companion volumes, and found two:
Pirke Avot, Sayings of the Pharisees; Or, Hebrew Fathers
. . . Phil­
adelphia; published by the Translator; 1858.
[Seder gemilut hasadim nikbetsu bo ha-tefillot b’ad ha-oleh
ule-vet ha-hayyim ule-vet ha-avelim . . . ]
Gemilus Chasadim.
Chicago, B.J. Ettelsohn & Bro., 5637 (1877).
The translator of the first, a 36-page volume, was I.L.
Lermant, a teacher of Hebrew, who prepared this text in He­
brew and English for use by his students. The second, a 43-page
mourner’s prayerbook, is the first Hebrew book printed in Chi­
cago. These first two of a collection that has grown two thou­
sandfold over the last forty years are two of the rarest items
in the collection. Singerman lists only three copies of the former,
and only one — this copy — of the latter.
THE COLLECTION
The Abraham and Deborah Karp Collection of Early Amer­
ican Judaica, acquired by the Library of the Jewish Theological
Seminary of America in 1990, comprises 1,950 books, 650
pamphlets, 700 issues of periodicals, 240 manuscripts and doc­
uments, 175 newspapers, 180 pieces of sheet music, 80 prints
and a like number of ephemera, some 4,000 items in all. In
time, it ranges from 1660 — Thomas Thorowgood’s
Jewes in
America
— to some historic pamphlets of the 1920s. In space
— it covers four continents, North and South America, Europe
and Asia. It includes not only works written or printed in Amer­
ica but also those which record or illuminate the American Jew­