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What was lost in the JTS Library fire?

In the library I saw a new book on the shelf, Studies in Jewish Bibliography and Medieval Hebrew Poetry: Collected Essays of Menachem Schmelzer (JTS Press). M. Schmelzer was for many years the librarian of the JTS Library and author of numerous articles on Jewish bibliography and Medieval Hebrew Poetry. An interesting short article which I found in the volume was a description of what was actually destroyed in the fire at the JTS Library in 1966. One important thing to point out is that none of the rare books and manuscripts were destroyed although the total number of destroyed volumes came to 70,000. Below are some of the collections which were destroyed (p. 182-3 in Studies).

Israel Davidson Collection (on permanent loan from the College of the City of New York). The great scholar’s complete collection of 8,000 volumes, which was especially rich in rare liturgical and poetical material.

Louis Ginzberg and Alexander Marx Collection of Books. Many of the books had the learned owners’ marginal notes. Their papers, and those books which were in the Ginzberg-Marx Faculty Library and the Manuscript Room, remained intact.

Moritz Steinschneider Collection. With the exception of his correspondence, his own works with handwritten notes, and his manuscript collection, the irreplaceable library of some 5,000 volumes of the great scholar was completely burned.

These were just some of the collections which were destroyed. It is my understanding that there is currently an effort to restore many of the volumes which suffered water-damage. On a personal note, recently I have become exposed to some of the work of Moritz Steinschneider and realized how lacking most scholars of Judaica, myself included, are in their familiarity with the work of this intellectual giant. He was not only the greatest bibliographer of Hebrew and Jewish literature, but also a scholar of intellectual and cultural history, not to mention a fascinating individual whose own personal religous and intellectual journey are worthy of study (see Ismar Schorsch’s From Text to Context for some discussion of Steinschneider). This site seems to have been a start at putting some of his literary output online but it doesn’t seem to have gotten very far.

2 Responses to “What was lost in the JTS Library fire?”

  1. 1
    R. David Tzvi Hoffman « Menachem Mendel:

    […] Is anybody familiar with any other testimony to the existence of such an unpublished work? I think that Alexander Marx, his son-in-law, was in possession of some of his papers, and hopefully it wasn’t destroyed in the JTS fire. […]

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:

    I have read so many references to Steinschneider but never read his original work. It always amazes me how the scholars from before the war were so much more multifaceted compared to the current crop.
    david g. | Homepage | 08.15.06 – 10:44 am | #

    “One important thing to point out is that none of the rare books . . . were destroyed”

    but many books recognized today as rare and important were considered “ordinary” in the 1960s and consumed or damaged by water.
    Ari Kinsberg | Homepage | 08.28.06 – 10:03 pm | #




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