The library recently purchased a collection of Hebrew manuscript fragments from the former collection of Marvin L. Colker, professor of Classics at the University of Virginia. As manuscript cataloger at Trinity College, Dublin, he published the catalogue Trinity College Dublin Library: Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Latin Manuscripts (Dublin, 1991).
A number of fascinating manuscripts have been cataloged recently in Penn Libraries’ rare Judaica holdings, ranging from legal documents to a personal notebook. Here are some highlights.
Two of the recently cataloged manuscripts come from the former collection of Yosef Goldman (1942–2015). Goldman was a Hungarian scholar of American Judaica, a Judaica collector, and coauthor with Ari Kinsberg of Hebrew Printing in America, 1735–1926, A History and Annotated Bibliography (Brooklyn, 2006).
On December 21, 2022, Penn’s Judaica collections received a magnificent gift of twenty-seven historic ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts) from Penn alumni Joseph T. Moldovan, C’76 and Susan Alkalay Moldovan, C’76. The donation features twenty-five handwritten and two printed ketubot, dating from 1678 to 1946, originating in Persia, Gibraltar, Italy, Morocco, Ottoman Palestine, Holland, Tsarist Russia, the U.S., the Kingdom of Poland, Yemen, and British Mandate Palestine. Accompanying the gift are detailed descriptions of each ketubah and high-resolution TIFF images.
Thanks to the extraordinary generosity and vision of Arnold and Deanne Kaplan, the Penn Libraries have acquired a pair of 18th-century oil portraits of Moses Michael Hays, arguably the most prominent Jewish merchant of the time, and his wife Rachel Myers Hays, the daughter of the outstanding colonial Jewish silversmith (Myer Myers). These paintings are attributed to Gilbert Stuart, renowned for his unfinished painting of George Washington, which appears on the one dollar bill!
Upon cataloging manuscript ephemera from the Abraham J. and Deborah Karp Collection of Judaica at the Penn Libraries, one item caught my eye – something very uncommon. What I mean by this is that there is no real comparable equivalent to this manuscript that I have seen in other collections or at Judaica auctions.
In Penn’s Libraries, one can find a particular battle-scarred volume. It is a large folio, rebound in old leather, damaged by fire, with margins cut, pages torn out, others stolen but then replaced, marked by a few clever patches to the parchment. There are marginal notes in a variety of inks and handwritings representing many generations of readers and amenders. It is a late thirteenth–early fourteenth-century Mahzor, or Jewish prayer book for the high holidays, originating from the German Rhineland. (CAJS Rare MS 382).
In the spirit of these difficult times, we would like to highlight two special acquisitions that reflect the possibility of overcoming trauma and rebuilding lives. Thanks to the Mark S. Zucker Judaica Endowment, established by Katz Center board member Mark Zucker, we acquired the first edition of Viktor Frankl’s Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen [“Say yes to Life”] (Vienna: Franz Deuticke Verlag, 1946).
The University of Pennsylvania Libraries is pleased to announce that Emily Esten has been named the inaugural Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica Curator of Digital Humanities.
We are delighted to announce that Ilan Stavans, of Amherst College, the internationally known scholar, writer, editor, translator, playwright, cultural critic, publisher, teacher, lexicographer, columnist, journalist, travel writer, biographer, actor, TV and radio host, has donated to the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, the Ilan Stavans Collection of Jewish Latin American History, Culture, and Literature.