Tag Archives: Hebrew_mss@cul

Recent rare acquisitions in Judaica @ CUL

The past few months have been busy for us, as we’ve acquired a number of new rare books and manuscripts for the Columbia RBML:

1. Divre Rivot – A compilation of various disputes and discussions relating to customs that took place in Mantua in the late 16th and 17th centuries.  The wealthy members of the community took it upon themselves to arbitrate disputes and wrote copious records about them.  An excellent resource for research in early modern Mantua (Hebrew with some Italian).

2. Adding to a number of autograph manuscripts that we have by the 19th century Italian philosopher Samuel David Luzzatto is a treatise on theology and Aramaic grammar. (Italian with some Hebrew)

Ilan Kadosh3. We are very grateful for a donation of an Ilan Kadosh (see image, left) to our manuscript collection.  Information about this scroll will be added to the Ilanot Database.

4. A manuscript describing a massive fire in the city of “Cairo” (קירו), in Italy in 1768 and praising God for the miracles that occurred there (nobody was harmed, the fire was out before Shabbat, etc.)

5. Mid-19th century letters of recommendation for a charity collector from Tzefat (Safed) who traveled to Italy and France and received recommendations in many towns throughout (towns mentioned include Genoa, Ferrara, Firenze, Livorno, and Sabbioneta).  The collector also included his own diary of his travels, beginning with the day that “I travel to Italy.”

New Acquisitions: Travels of Moise Vita Cafsuto

In 1733, a man from Firenze, in Italy, named Moise (Moses) Vita (Hayyim) Cafsuto (Cassuto) set off on a journey to the Holy Land.  He kept a diary of his travels throughout the Middle East, where he noted interesting sites (specifically Jewish ones, like graves and synagogues) and scenes along his journey.   We recently acquired a copy of this manuscript, in Italian with Hebrew blurbs for sites of Jewish interest.  It is an interesting journey of travels in general, but also specifically for Jewish "Biblical tours."  In one instance, for example, the author describes how he and his fellow travelers found "Har Ha-har," the site of the Biblical Aaron's burial.  He describes the site as containing a "cave, where there are writings said to be in Arabic on a great stone of marble, and there is an everlasting candle…"

Hebrew Mss @ CUL: New Acquisition: Franchetti Family Archive

I am pleased to announce the acquisition of manuscripts from the archive of the Franchetti family.  The Franchettis were hatmakers, originally from Mantua, who moved to Tunis and established their hat business there.  The business quickly became global, with connections in Leghorn/Livorno and Izmir.  This new collection includes 8 volumes of business correspondence and records. 

The Franchetti family is also mentioned as members of the Scuola Grande of Mantua in the archives of the synagogue, which are also held here at Columbia.

New Database Acquisition: Sol and Evelyn Henkind Talmud text databank

I am pleased to announce the acquisition of a new database for the study of Talmud at Columbia, the Sol and Evelyn Henkind Talmud text databank.  The databank includes typed transcriptions and images of nearly all of the critical manuscripts and early printings of the Talmud, to allow scholarly research of variants and alternate readings of the text (including the Columbia Talmud and the 10th century Menahot – shown here – from Columbia's collection).

The ultimate goal of the databank is to "encompass all primary textual witnesses of the Babylonian Talmud, including the manuscripts of the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud of Oriental, Ashkenazic, Sephardic, or Yemenite provenance, and first printed editions. It will include hundreds of Cairo Geniza and European binding fragments of the Babylonian Talmud, many as both text and digital image."

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.

 

The People in the Books: Now open at Columbia and online

It is with great pleasure that I announce that Columbia’s exhibition of Hebrew and Judaic manuscripts, The People in the Books, is now open, through January 25, 2013.  The exhibit is free and open to the public during all RBML hours of operation. Entry is free, and handicapped accessible. Please bring valid government-issued photo ID for entry to Butler Library through the Library Information Office, just inside the front door. For entry on Monday evenings after 6:00, please have the Butler Door Guard call the RBML Reference Desk, (212) 854-5590.

For those who cannot make it to NYC, the exhibit is also available online here.  Note that the best way to view the exhibit is through both the online and the physical exhibitions.  A miniature Torah scroll in its own wooden case and a handwritten description of and cure for scurvy, for example, did not make it into the online exhibition, while the image shown here, of David playing the harp for King Saul, cannot be seen in the physical version, because the book in which it appears is open to a different page.

For more information about the exhibit or any of the manuscripts, please contact Michelle Chesner, Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies, at mc3395@columbia.edu or 212-854-8046.

Hebrew mss @ CUL: The (Raphael Jesurun de) Spinoza autograph

The advantage to working in a collection such as Columbia's, with its very deep and diverse resources, is that new and interesting materials pop up almost daily.  A couple of months ago, I received a phone call that someone wanted to come and look at our Spinoza autograph. 

Columbia is home to the Oko-Gebhardt Spinoza collection, with nearly 4,000 volumes by and about Barukh/Benedict Spinoza.  Until the phone call, however, I did not know that any autographs by the controversial philosopher himself were present in our collection.  I hurried over to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where I saw the volume shown here.  It seemed a bit strange, as the text, Sefer ha-hinukh, is a work about the commandments of Judaism, but I speculated that perhaps this was something he owned very early in life, perhaps even as a child.

I emailed Professor Adriaan Offenberg in Amsterdam about the find, knowing that Professor Offenberg has done a tremendous amount of research on the subject, and that the only known autographs by Benedict Spinoza were in Amsterdam.  His response was tremendously helpful, and told a totally different story:

The signature shown here is actually in the hand of Raphael Jesurun de Spinoza, born around 1617, and also known as Bartholome Rodrigues Henriques.  His name is mentioned in the Portuguese Community of Amsterdam's archives between 1657 and 1673.   There are at least six known books that contain his signature, one of which, a Bible, caused a tremendous controversy in the 1950s, when a scholar published its manuscript notes assuming that it had belonged to Benedict Spinoza.  Dr. Leo Fuks, the librarian of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana at the time, published a very strong rebuttal in Dutch, in Amstelodamum (November 1959), which proved that the signature was not Benedict's.

No doubt Raphael Jesurun de Spinoza was an interesting figure as well, even if he wasn't the philosopher that I had hoped he would be.  Through him I learned a fascinating story about scholars and scholarship, and of the importance of thoroughly researching a topic before jumping to any conclusions.

Many thanks to Professor Offenberg for his help in demystifying this enigma.

Hebrew mss @ CUL: The Whole Megillah

In honor of the upcoming holiday of Purim (March 8), here is a Megilat Esther from Columbia's Smith Collection.  Professor David Eugene Smith, a professor at Columbia's Teacher's College from 1901-1926, was a scholar in the History of Mathematics who went around the world collecting manuscripts and rare books related to his topic.  He spent a lot of time in Persia, studying the Persian system of mathematics.  While there, he also purchased some Hebrew manuscripts, like the Esther Scroll shown here, which he then donated to Columbia University.  The story of Esther, of course, takes place in ancient Persia, or present day Iran.

While other such decorated cases exist, it is rare to find one in such good condition due to the fragility of the ivory.

The second image, below, is the portion of the text with the names of the ten sons of Haman.

 

 

Thanks to a project with the National Library of Israel's Institute for Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, the manuscript can be viewed in its entirety here: