Tag Archives: Bibliography

David Stern Lecture: The Lives of Jewish Books

As we near the close of physical version of The People in the Books (the online version will, of course remain online), we look forward to one more lecture dealing with Hebrew manuscripts.  On January 22, as part of the Grolier Club's Bibliography Week, Professor David Stern (University of Pennsylvania) will be speaking at Columbia on "The Lives of Jewish Books." 

The lecture will highlight two medieval manuscripts – one Ashkenazic and one Sephardic, and will describe the stories that they represent.  All are welcome to 523 Butler Library at 6 PM for the lecture.

Remember, the exhibit will close on January 25!  Hours for the exhibition are 9-4:45, Monday through Friday.

Discoveries in the vault – a book collector’s book

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.”

First page of Foa’s poem

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.

Second page of the poem.

Update: More information about Moses Benjamin Foa (in Italian) can be found here.  Many thanks to Francesco Spagnolo of the Magnes.

New Acquisitions: Bookdealers and Sabbateans


I am pleased to announce two new acquisitions for the Judaica collection at Columbia:

1) A small collection of materials from Judaica bookdealers around the world in the first part of the 20th century.  A brief description:

Collection of letters and ephemera relating to the Judaica book trade, most from 1926-1955.  The collection includes correspondence from all over the world, including Vienna, Lisbon, Italy, the United States, and Palestine/Israel.  It is notable as a rare glimpse into the world of pre-Holocaust collecting, as well as the early history of Jewish settlement in Palestine.  Notable bookdealers and collectors include Biegeleisen (New York), David Frankel (Vienna and New York), Yochanan and Abraham Rubenstein (Haifa), Efraim Keizer (Pressburg) Yehuda Idil Bialistotsky (Slonim), Rubin Mass (Jerusalem), etc.  The majority of the collection is in Hebrew, but other languages include English, German, and French.

This collection is very important for the study of the Jewish book trade in the pre-WWII era, when book dealers throughout the world were in constant communication with each other as well as other collectors in order to build libraries of Judaica.

2) A collection of letters relating to the controversy around Nehemiah Hayon, a 17th century Kabbalist who was accused of being a follower of the false messiah Sabbetai Zevi.  The controversy swirled around Italy and Holland, and many prominent rabbis were involved in the case.  An interesting letter in the collection also deals with "a woman of loose virtue."

Another manuscript dealing with the Sabbetai Zevi affair can be found in the current exhibit, "The People In the Books," which remains open through January 25 (note that the library will be open 12/26-28 for those who would like to visit during the holiday break).

As always, we welcome scholars to utilize our collections, especially our new acquisitions.


New Database: Bibliography of the Hebrew Book

I am very pleased to announce the addition of a new database to Columbia's Jewish Studies collection, the Bibliography of the Hebrew Book.  This exceptional resource is a detailed database of approximately 90% of the books printed in Hebrew letters between 1470 and 1960 (Ladino and Judeo-Arabic books are all included; Yiddish books are not – although the database does include books printed in both Hebrew and Yiddish)   The database includes more than 141,000 titles, often with extensive bibliographic information (textual variants, unique pagination, etc.) about the individual books included in the records.

Much of the database, including the records themselves, are in Hebrew.  For help with the site, feel free to contact the Jewish Studies Librarian (jewishstudies@libraries.cul.columbia.edu).

At this point, a proxy (for offsite access) is not yet available.  From a Columbia computer, you can access the site at http://www.hebrew-bibliography.com/loginform.aspx. (I will update when off-site access has been established.)

Update: The Bibliography of the Hebrew Book is now freely available online through the National Library of Israel.