One of the wonderful things about being the first librarian for Jewish Studies at Columbia is the constant discovery that takes place as I research and document the history of the Judaica collection. In the process of reviewing a list of Hebrew books in the Columbia Manuscript Room (which included both rare printed books and manuscripts) circa 1922, I discovered a note on this record for a 16th century mahzor of the Roman rite:
"Parchment leaf before t.-p. of v. 2 contains a poem in ms. by Moses Benjamin Foa."
Well, who was Moses Benjamin Foa? It turns out that he was an important 18th century bookdealer and collector in Reggio Emilia (Italy), who not only sold books to the ducal library of Mantua, but also bought and donated to his home community of Reggio Emilia the library of Israel Benjamin Bassano, another noted book collector and scholar.
Considering Columbia's recent purchase of an entire archive of early 20th century Hebrew book dealers' letters and documents, it is nice to know that Columbia's book dealer collection goes back at least two hundred years earlier.
Any further insight into Moses Benjamin Foa or Israel Benjamin Bassano (perhaps Bassani?) would be greatly appreciated.