Hebrew and Judaica Manuscripts at Columbia Libraries Through Jan. 25

Dec. 6, 2012Bookmark and Share
Watch the video to learn more about The People in the Books, on exhibit at Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library. (3:30)

(Editor's note: The following story and slideshow were published on Sept. 14, 2012. The video was published on Dec. 6, 2012.)

A new exhibition entitled The People in the Books: Judaica Manuscripts at Columbia University Libraries opened in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library on September 12. Co-sponsored by the Norman E. Alexander Library, the exhibition of Hebrew and Judaica manuscripts will run through January 25. 

The exhibition draws from the extensive Hebrew manuscript collection at Columbia, which contains approximately 1,600 manuscripts dating from the 10th to the 20th centuries, and spans the globe from India to the Caribbean. The exhibit will focus on the individual stories represented in the manuscripts, such as a booklist for a private library, a tipped-in prayer for a pregnant princess, and an ancient Haggadah with wine stains on its pages.

The Columbia Judaica collection became truly significant through the generous donation of Temple Emanuel, the oldest Reform congregation in New York City. In 1862, Temple Emanuel purchased 2,500 rare books and 45 manuscripts from Fredrich Mueller, a rare book dealer in Amsterdam. This collection was made up of the libraries of important scholars, including Rabbi Yaakov Emden of Altona (1698-1776), a famous Talmudist and Kabbalist; and Guiseppe Almanzi of Padua (1801 – 1860), a bibliophile and poet. The Almanzi library included books from the library of Hayyim Joseph David Azulai (HIDA, 1724 - 1806), a rabbi and scholar who traveled the world collecting and researching Hebrew rare books and manuscripts. The Almanzi collection was also used by the great scholar and bibliographer Morris Steinschneider and Leopold Zunz. In 1892, the Temple Emanuel board made the decision to donate the library to Columbia.

Kabbalistic manuscript, title page, 18th century. (Image Credit: Columbia University Libraries)Amulet for spiritual protection of a newborn, 1851. (Image credit: Columbia University Libraries)Ketubah, Corfu, 1820.  (Image credit: Columbia University Libraries)Calendar book, title page, 17th century. (Image credit: Columbia University Libraries)Dispute between the Greek and Italian communities of Corfu, illustration, 17th century. (Image credit: Columbia University Libraries)Dispute between the Greek and Italian communities of Corfu, opening spread, 17th century. (Image credit: Columbia University Libraries)Scroll describing a miracle in Saragossa, 17th century. (Image credit: Columbia University Libraries)Ketubah, Sandur (Kurdistan), 1688. (Image credit: Columbia University Libraries)Talmudic and Midrashic homilies, title page, Italy, 1590. (Image credit: Columbia University Libraries)

Click on the image to view a slideshow of images from the Hebrew and Judaica Manuscript Collection. slideshow

In 1934, Columbia professor Salo Baron ensured that the manuscript collections at Columbia would be truly magnificent when he purchased a collection of approximately 700 important manuscripts from David Frankel, a book-dealer in Vienna.

Other donors throughout the 19th and 20th centuries included Jacob Schiff and Oscar Strauss, Richard Gottheil and Stephen S. Wise, and Columbia professor Yosef Yerushalmi. In 2008, the Norman E. Alexander Foundation donated four million dollars to create the Norman E. Alexander Library for Jewish Studies and support its rare and general Judaica collections, ensuring that the collection will maintain its prominence well into the future.

For more information on the exhibition, reception, lectures and hours please see the Rare Book & Manuscript Library website or call 212-854-8046.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library owns over 500,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 28 million manuscripts in nearly 3,000 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children‘s literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 11 million volumes, over 150,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 500 professional and support staff.

—Story by Columbia News Staff
—Video by Columbia News Video Team

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