A fellow shul member asked a question recently concerning the value of a set of books. When it comes to books, the value is based on the possible use, the information the book provides, or its place in understanding a period of history. Some books have value based on their place in a collection, hence the collective value is much more than the sum of the parts. The Rosenberger collection is valuable as collection. Many items have special value (such as the incunabula, rare books, and ephemera collections) but others are quite common and in many collections. The person who asked about his set of Hebrew-Yiddish Tanach thought his book was special because it had been in his family since 1937. The value was more important for his family than for a library. Since Siddurim and Tenachim are in most Jewish homes, very few have any special value. A collection of several hundred different Tenachim, Siddurim, or other liturgical books would have a very special value.
Books that are difficult to obtain or in fragile condition deserve to be saved. Chaim Rosenberg, of Brooklyn, created a CD Rom and a web site (Hebrewbooks.org) to save Halakhic and Homiletic texts written by distinguished Rabanim who served communities across the United States from 1890 to 1960. He asks that the reader use the works and give recognition to the authors. The collection is a personal selection and is in no way comprehensive. His first CD has 60 seforim in PDF (portable document format) format. The text is fully readable and printable. He does not charge for his services, but does ask for a donation to cover his costs.
Ludwig Rosenberger Collection of Judaica
A few months ago I had an opportunity to visit the Ludwig Rosenberger Collection of Judaica that is in the Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago. This library is in the guides to Jewish Chicago published the JUF and Chicago Jewish News, but because it is a closed collection and part of the University of Chicago most members of the community probably know nothing about the collection. My visit was part of the meeting of the Judaica Library Network of Chicago. Mr. Rosenberger's widow attended the meeting and was very interested in meeting the librarians.
This collection of more than 17,000 items is a distinctly personal one, collected by prosperous Chicago businessman, Ludwig Rosenberger (1904-1987). Rosenberger was born in Germany and lived in Palestine for four years before emigrating to Chicago. As a collector, Rosenberger pursued books that reflected his lifelong interest in studying Jewish history, Jewish political and social conditions, and Zionism. He did not collect religious literature nor many books in Hebrew. Almost all the books are in English, German, or French. He spent a great deal of time and money gathering his collection. The collection contains over 100 bibliographical items listing books in other collections.
The chronological scope of the Rosenberger collection ranges from incunabula, of which there are 26, to the early 1980s. Among the early books are works by Christian Hebraists such as Johann Reuchlin and Johann Buxtorf; anti-Semitic works by Luther and Abraham a Santa Clara; a unique copy of Andreas Osiander's defense of Jews against accusations of ritual murder, published in 1540; rare tracts relating to the re-admission of the Jews to England and Jewish emancipation, including a copy of John Toland's Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland (1714); and Lessing's plea for toleration in Nathan der Weise (1779). Items include signed letters from Albert Einstein, Adolphe Cremieux, Sigmond Freud, Leon Trotsky, and Gustav Mahler.
The collection also contains anti-Semitica, because Rosenberger wanted to document the entire Jewish experience. We saw one item that was a scrapbook of anti-Semitic ephemera such as signs, stamps, labels, and broadsides with anti-Semitic messages. Some of the items were from Nazi Germany and others were from the US and Western Europe.
Examples of Rosenberger Collection books that are common in other libraries include: The Jews : their history, culture, and religion / edited by Louis Finkelstein; Jewish Encyclopedia / edited by Singer, Isidore; The Joshua Bloch memorial volume; studies in booklore and history / edited by Abraham Berger, Lawrence Marwick [and] Isidore S. Meyer; Memories of my life : being my personal, profes-sional, and social recollections as woman and artist / by Sarah Bernhardt; The Jewish community: its history and structure to the American Revolution / by Salo Wittmayer Baron; Students, scholars and saints / by Louis Ginzberg; Karaite anthology, excerpts from the early literature; translated from Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew sources / with notes by Leon Nemoy; Race, nation, and people in the Jewish Bible / Maurice Samuel; and Memoirs of my people through a thousand years / selected and edited by Leo W. Schwarz.
The collection is housed in a special area of Special Collections. The books are on the shelves in the exact order that Rosenberger had in his home. The library assigned a shelf list number while the rest of the library uses the Library of Congress classification. The books may only be used within the Special Collections department of the library. Records of many of the titles in the Rosenberger collection are available online through the University of Chicago Library catalog. Works in the collection are in a printed catalog prepared by Rosenberger: Judaica; A Short-Title Catalogue of the Books, Pamphlets and Manuscripts Relating to the Political, Social and Cultural History of the Jews and to the Jewish Question ... (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1971; and Supplement, 1979). Many of the titles have other copies in the circulating collection of the University. In 1976 Regenstein Library mounted a special exhibit and published a guide to the exhibit. (Ludwig Rosenberger collection of Judaica a selection exhibited at the Joseph Regenstein Library, the University of Chicago, March 9-May 3, 1976 :[catalogue / by Paul Silverman and Richard Peiser.) The Library also had an exhibit in 1981 with items concerning Moses Mendelssohn.
The circumstances of this collection are very unusual for a library. Most research collections accept gifts with the condition that the library may choose items to keep, to sell, or otherwise dispose of. The Rosenberger collection was kept intact and the family gave money toward its cataloging and maintenance. The size of this collection makes it one of the largest personal collections of Judaica.(1)
If you want to see part of the collection on line
the URL is : http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/spel/.
If you want to visit the collection in person, you must call the Regenstein
Library Special Collections Department at : (773) 702-8705 to arrange for
1. The late Rabbi Leonard Mishkin sold over 50,000 items from his personal collection to the University of Florida. I have also seen a few other collections in the 20,000+ range offered for sale. The biggest gifts that I accepted for libraries that I worked in were in the 2,000 range. Many gift items were not accepted because they were duplicates or not appropriate for the collection.
Brandeis University Library received
a large collection of Judaica in 1969. This collection is in a special
room named after the donor. They will no longer accept a collection that is required
to be segregated. Harvard, like other research collections, is low on space.
Some materials are stored off-site. They will not accept a collection with
the condition that it be kept in tact.
Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at: home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/liblob.htm. He can be reached via e-mail at: DDStuhlman@earthlink.net.
©2001 Last revised January 28, 2001