New Findings, New Acquisitions

Posted by Paul Hamburg on Thursday October 7 2010

As the Librarian for the Judaica Collection at the Berkeley Libraries and the Curator for Judaica Collection at The Bancroft Library, I am very excited by my affiliation with The Magnes Collection for Jewish Life and Arts.

I would like to note two important projects that are already in the works. First, I am reviewing and evaluating all of the rare books and special collection materials of the Magnes Library. In this project I have already identified a collection of treatises by Elijah Levita and Abraham ibn Ezra printed in Venice in 1545 by the publisher Daniel Bomberg. The collection is rich in materials from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Second, concurrently with the agreement with the university’s agreement with the Magnes, the Judaica Collection acquired the Tunisian component of the Meir Benayahu Collection of Judeo-Arabic materials. This collection includes nearly two-hundred books printed in Tunis, Souse and the Isle of Djerba between the years 1850-1950. The books deal with a wide variety of Jewish subjects, such as Bible, homiletics, ethics, liturgy, folklore and Jewish mysticism. These works provide valuable insight into the Jewish culture of the near-east of the last centuries.

This rare collection of Judeo-Arabic works comes from the outstanding collection of the world-famous bibliophile, Professor Meir Benayahu (1926-2009) of Jerusalem. Benayahu was a remarkably productive historian and a prolific writer who authored approximately fifty books and five-hundred scholarly papers on Jewish history and Hebrew bibliography. Benayahu focused mainly on the history of the Jews in the near-east and in the Mediterranean basin.

Besides for his scientific contributions Benayahu was also renowned as one of the greatest collectors of rare Hebrew books and manuscripts. As an enthusiastic bibliophile Benayahu collected mainly those works published in the near-east. Benayahu took great care that his books should be well kept, and he always tried to acquire complete copies with their original binding. This collection of Judeo-Arabic evinces the love of a great scholar for his books. It is by means of these books that Benayahu attempted to advance further research and study into the subjects of his collection.

At UC Berkeley today, there is already a group of faculty and graduate students who can make use of these materials in their research.

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