Tag Archives: New Aquisitions

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

johnsons-psaltorum-uncat

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.

New Acquisitions: Prague history, 15th c. Yiddish medicine, and Italian Broadsides

It has been a busy year for Judaica acquisitions at the Columbia RBML.  Three important acquisitions have been added to our collection:

  1. A collection of forty Italian Broadsides depicting regulations on various communities (including Ferrara, Padua, Ancona, and others), only one of which is in the extensive Valmadonna collection of broadsides.  We plan to digitize this collection to add to the already significant corpus provided by Valmadonna.  Regulations include prohibitions on throwing candy, talking in the synagogue and shouting, as well as financial matters such as taxes.
  2. A late 18th century manuscript describing the history of the Jewish community of Prague from the perspective of the author, Yosef Yitshak Ha-kohen Poppers.  Particularly interesting from a visual perspective is the addition of a printed engraving pasted on to the title page.
  3. Our most recent acquisition is a 15th century Sefer Refu’os, in Yiddish (with Italian words for herbs, and, citing at least one Ladino incantation), of remedies and cures for all sorts of things, including teeth whitening, various remedies for wounds, an incantation for revelation of one’s destined wife, and many more.  This manuscript is unique in both content and language, and we invite scholars to work on it!  The manuscript is in the process of being digitized, and will be made available online after digitization.

 

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: All this has come upon us…

We are very pleased to announce the recent acquisition of a haunting and beautiful portfolio of exhibition prints entitled All this has come upon us…, created by Dr. Mark Podwal.  This series of images was created for an exhibition at the Terezin Ghetto Museum from April to July 2014.  The series includes images relating to all aspects of Jewish history, with a verse from Psalms on the facing page which exemplifies the event.  (The image on the left represents the 1899 Polna Blood Libel.)  The portfolio will be housed in the Book Arts Collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

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…"

New acquisitions: Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online

"The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of the Hebrew language from its earliest attested form to the present day. The encyclopedia contains overview articles that provide a readable synopsis of current knowledge of the major periods and varieties of the Hebrew language as well as thematically-organized entries which provide further information on individual topics. With over 950 entries and approximately 400 contributing scholars, the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics is the authoritative reference work for students and researchers in the fields of Hebrew linguistics, general linguistics, Biblical studies, Hebrew and Jewish literature, and related fields."

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.

 

Hebrew mss @ CUL: Jews and Privileges in Germany

The Hebrew manuscript collection at CUL is quite wide-ranging, covering space from India to the Carribean, and time from the 10th to the 20th centuries.  It has particularly strong coverage of the early modern period, with substantial historical materials from Italy and Amsterdam, Greece (Corfu) and France.   One obvious lacuna for our collection was the Jewish community of Germany. 

While we do have some manuscripts that were produced in Germany, such as our ‘Evronot, there was previously not much in our collection which described the actual people from this area during the early modern era.  Until now.  We recently were able to acquire a German manuscript from 1750 which describes the "Revised Privileges and Laws of Jewry in Royal Prussia."

A full description is available at the link above, but in summary, the manuscript includes:

1) A list of the Schutzjuden (Protected Jews) to whom King Frederick II (the Great) granted the privilege to live in Prussia.

2) A list of laws under which the Jews could remain in King Frederick’s lands.

This document presents a fascinating slice of time; not only for the specific individuals that are listed within it, but also for the laws themselves, which include governance of the community.  The laws were very specific, including a provision that the Jews were not allowed to say a phrase (she-hem mishtahavim la-hevel va-rik) within the Alenu prayer which was seen as derogatory to Christians.  That such detail would be included in these laws implies that a study of the other laws may give us more insight into this particular community of Jews at this time.