NEA Newsletter, Fall 2016


The live links are available via PDF (Newsletter 2016-2 (PDF)) or below (note that if you’re a regular Jewish Studies @CUL reader, you might find some of them familiar!):

Since 1754: The study of Hebrew at Columbia (and a new acquisition)


Samuel Johnson’s Psalms

From its inception in 1754, the founders of Columbia University felt that the study of Hebrew was critical to understanding the classics.  Columbia’s collection includes founder Samuel Johnson’s own copy of a Hebrew-Latin psalms with the Hebrew alphabet written in his own hand.

Another professor in the 18th century was Johann Kunze, who taught Hebrew at Columbia from 1784-1787, and from 1792-1794.  Professor Kunze was well-known for his Hebrew scholarship far beyond Columbia.  He was also close with Gershom Seixas, a Columbia trustee (appointed 1784) and important Jewish figure of the colonial era.

While Kunze was in New York (he had previously taught Hebrew at the University of Pennsylvania), he was also the pastor of the Trinity and Christ Church, the city’s only Lutheran house of worship.  Kunze authored the first Lutheran hymnbook in English.

When he was teaching Hebrew at Columbia College, the only Hebrew type to be found was at Cambridge, where another professor of Hebrew (at Harvard) had brought in from England so he could print his textbook.  In New York, however, Hebrew type was not easily attainable.  It seems that Professor Kunze handwrote a Hebrew grammar for his class (in Latin), from which a student copied (and translated) a copy for himself in May of 1796.

We are pleased to announce the acquisition of this manuscript to the Columbiana collection of the University.  This new manuscript is item 209 in the Columbiana manuscripts collection.

Research tips: CLIO filters and new Jewish Studies books

Are you interested in recent acquisitions in your area of interest?  CLIO has the ability to search all books in the collections, by date, subject, and even date acquired!  Knowing how to use CLIO filters can help you to see the most recent books that we’ve acquired for the collections.

  1. Begin a “blank” search in the Catalog (don’t put any words in; just click your cursor in the text box and hit Enter.  You’ll get the 10 million or so books that we currently have in the collection.
  2. From there, the fun begins. Look on the left at the filters.  If you scroll down, you’ll notice that there’s a filter called “Subject (Region).”  If you click on the “more” option, you’ll see one for Israel.  Click on that, and you’ll see the 17K records that we have for books about Israel
  3. Looking back at the filters, you’ll see another filter called “Acquisition Date.”  That filter will give you books cataloged within the last week, last month, last 6 months, or the last year.  If you choose 6 months, for instance, you’ll see that there were 400+ books about Israel added to the collection in the last six months.

Interested in what’s being published generally about the Jews?  Click on the filter for Subject “Jews,” and then go to the top and click the “x” on the subject for Israel – you’ll get everything that is listed with Jews in the catalog record, and you’ll see the 300+ books acquired in that area in the last six months.

You can also set up an RSS feed for the search by clicking on the orange RSS symbol next to the “Previous/Next” buttons above the search results.

Italian Jewish Community Broadsides – now digitized!

As posted earlier this year, we had acquired 40 broadsides and other pamphlets containing regulations pertaining to the Italian Jewish community.  I am pleased to announce that these pamphlets have now been digitized, and are fully available in Columbia’s Digital Library Collections. Each item is searchable with the first words (in Italian) of the document, as well as an English summary.  Dates and locations were included where known.

Included in the collection are regulations regarding Jewish firefighters, merchants, taxes to be paid by Jews, talking in the synagogue, throwing of candy (!), and much more!

If you’re interested in broadsides relating to various Jewish communities, be sure to also take a look at the Valmadonna Broadsides collection, which contains over 500 broadsides (only two of Columbia’s broadsides are duplicated there).  We look forward to making more unique broadsides available in the future.

CUL, Mac Pro, OS X, 10.6.8, Phase One P40, Capture One 7.1, Profoto Strobes, Schneider 80mm LS /f2.8, ColorChecker

Venice, 1731.  Jews are prohibited from shouting

New Acquisition: Kotar (Hebrew e-books from Israeli presses)

A collaboration of leading Israeli publishers, Kotar is a large collection of reference materials, scholarly books, biographies, and other materials related to Israeli and Jewish topics. Kotar aims to provide students, teachers, and scholars with the best sources of information published over the last 50 years in Hebrew, along with an online work environment. Kotar resources span Israel studies; Israeli culture, literature, history, education, and sociology; and other selected topics in the humanities and social sciences.

It is now available here: to Columbia affiliates with a uni and password

Conservation and book repair, historical and modern

The Conservation Department at Columbia University Libraries is an often unsung hero of the libraries.  The work of their talented conservators encompasses all areas of the library, and ensures that our collections, both modern and ancient, will endure for years to come.

Many times, in a routin16049_BT_29e conservation activity, hidden aspects of books come to the fore.  This was the case of a commentary on the Bible by Rabbenu Bahye, printed in 1514 in Pesaro by Gershom Soncino.  The Conservation Department had received the book because the text block was broken, and they planned to repair the book and box it for protection.  While assessing the book, however, the conservators noticed an additional oddity. As shown below, two pages from another edition of the same book had been pasted together inside the book to replace a missing page.  The owner then crossed out the first few lines of the replacement page, so that text would be continuous from the original edition.  The owner did the same for the end of the added pages, again ensuring continuity for the reader of the text.  As you can see here, the text block was separated right at this point16049_BT_14 in the book.  The added pages had weakened the book, and so the pages needed to be separated in order for the book to be stabilized.

Once the pages were separated, the question then was: how to maintain the integrity of the history of this book, without compromising its stability?  The decision was made to line the versos of the replacement pages (which had previously been glued to each other and were thus hidden) with a translucent material, so the text 16049_BT_15would show, but only lightly, indicating that this had not been the original way that the book was used.  A note describing the treatment was also included with the book, so a reader could understand how the pages had initially been glued together.

The amount of thought and effort that goes into conservation work is incredible.  The conservators think about all aspects of the book, physical, 16049_DT_09intellectual, and historical, before making a decision about treatment.  Many thanks to Emily Cohen and Alexis Hagadorn for their fantastic work on this book!

Save the date! Alexander lecture with Jenna Joselit Weissman, November 1

We are very pleased to announce that Jenna Weissman Joselit, Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History, and Director of the Program in Judaic Studies at George Washington University will be giving the annual Norman E. Alexander Lecture this year, on November 1, 2016.  The title of the lecture is: “Rock Solid:  America’s Relationship to the Ten Commandments.”

More information will be forthcoming.  We hope you will join us!

NEA Library Spring 2016 Newsletter

Our latest newsletter is up!  Click here to download our Spring 2016 newsletter (with live links).

Highlights include: details about the Jewish collections included in the Global Studies exhibition in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library; updates on the digitization of the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry; links to the video for the most recent Norman E. Alexander Lecture with David Ruderman (University of Pennsylvania); digital humanities labs for Jewish Studies courses and more!Newsletter 2016-1 final

Three kabbalistic “brother” manuscripts identified: Paris, London, and New York

The British Library is working on digitizing their complete (and incredible) collection of Hebrew manuscripts.  In the process of doing so, they have been asking scholars, experts in their various fields, to write articles on various aspects of the Hebrew manuscripts.  This was the case with a recent article written by noted Kabbalah scholar Yossi Chajes dealing with the British Library manuscripts.

When I saw the article, I was shocked!  One of the manuscripts described in the article, Add MS 27091 (created 1588), looked exactly like a Columbia manuscript, MS X893 C81 (created 1579)!  (See images below.)  Because the Columbia manuscript had been in the Hebrew Manuscripts exhibition in 2012, I had ready images available to compare the two images, and indeed, they looked nearly exactly alike.  The manuscripts were most likely created by the same scribe, nearly 10 years apart.

A scholar at the University of Haifa working on the Ilanot Project, Dr. Eliezer Baumgarten, then informed us that there was yet a third manuscript – of the same work, with the same images and style, produced by the same scribe – at Paris’s Bibliothèque nationale de France (PARIS BN 864, created in 1577).

The full discussion took place on Twitter, and hopefully it’s just the beginning of some interesting scholarly work!

British Library’s Add MS 27091, f. 26r

120017_010, 1/23/12, 3:53 PM, 16C, 2942x3637 (1273+3805), 100%, bent 6 stops, 1/60 s, R66.1, G33.2, B43.8 CUL, Mac Pro, 10.6.7, Better Light 8K-2, Viewfinder 7.4.4, HID, TTI 45ei, Rodenstock 90mm/f5.6, ColorChecker

Columbia MS X893 C81 (32a-r)

Update: A fourth was identified in the Ilanot database (Bodleian Library MS Mich. 342), 1681!

Jewish Studies materials to be featured in Global Studies exhibit, April 4-June 24, 2016

Six items from the Jewish Studies collections will be featured as part of an exhibit featuring Global materials in Columbia’s Special Collections (more information about the general exhibit below).  Included in the Jewish Studies portion will be a manuscript copy of Spinoza’s Opera Posthuma; a Jewish elegy for Maria Theresa of Austria; a scroll of Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller’s Megilat ‘Evah; a “dialogue,” or debate, between a Jew, a Muslim, a Catholic, and a Protestant; and two works by the 16th century historian Joseph ha-Kohen, one in manuscript and one in print.

The Joseph ha-Kohen manuscript, written in 1557, is a translation of a Portuguese book describing the discovery of America which, until recently, had been unusable because its ink had migrated through the pages, rendering them stuck together.  Thanks to a generous grant from the Berg Foundation, we were able to conserve and digitize this manuscript, and it is now available for research use.  The printed Joseph ha-Kohen book was a recent donation, and describes the history of the Jews until the mid-16th century.

Please stop by the Chang Octagon Room in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library beginning April 4 to see these and other wonderful materials!

Imagining the World 7

Opening the week of April 4, 2015, in the Chang Octagon of The Rare Books & Manuscripts Library, a new exhibition will offer researchers an opportunity to view a sampling of the rare and the unusual in Columbia’s Global Studies collections.  The items on display until June 24, range in date from 1454 CE to 2014 CE, in a variety of formats, including books, manuscripts, maps, photos, posters, scrolls, sheet music, stamps, and typescripts, and encompassing more than 19 languages or scripts:  Arabic, Czech, English, French, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Latin, Malayalam, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Tamil, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Wolof.  This small exhibit represents only a fraction of what is collected by the Libraries to support global studies research and teaching.

A reception to celebrate the exhibition, with refreshments and keynote speaker Avinoam Shalem, Riggio Professor of the History of the Arts of Islam, will be held in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 5:30-7:00 pm