A stained and torn page was discovered up the Magnes ephemera collection – a copy of a poem hand-written on paper signed at the bottom by Meir Leibush Malbim, Chief Rabbi of Bucharest. But the poem is not a part of the regular Jewish liturgy found in ordinary prayer books – it is a prayer for the welfare of King Alexander Johann I of Romania. There’s no record of the donor of the piece or how it came into the collection. And there is no information about who might have copied it, or why…
A theater poster by artist Felice Pazner Malkin was found in the Magnes collection. It advertises the 1953 Habima production of the play ‘Cruelest of All – the King” and shows a woman with bowed head clutching her red robe about her, hiding her face; the only text is the name of the play and theater. The artist was in important figure in the development of modern Israeli theater poster design and offers a fascinating account of its cultural context.
We use the term ephemera to describe all sorts of works printed or written on paper that had only a temporary usefulness and were never intended to last very long. Our collection contains everything from memorial and devotional plaques to calendars, pictures, synagogue seating plans and donation recorders, all of them collected and sold or donated to the museum at one time or another by curators, donors, volunteers, and members of the community seeking an appropriate home for their treasures and curiosities.
Ephemera offer a look into all sorts of interesting corners of the Jewish community – ephemera blog # 1 introduces us to the Jewish community of Tlemcen, Algeria.
Today I was researching letters in the Magnes holdings that Jewish immigrants to the American West sent to their families back home (in Europe or elsewhere). There are some wonderful examples of such letters in our collections. I particularly like one sent by Johanna Mayer Hirschfelder to her family back in Europe in 1856. In [...]
I have been processing the papers of the Haas-Bransten family, members of the San Francisco Jewish “aristocracy,” and was struck by this clipping from one of the scrapbooks: Now, Edward Bransten Sr. was an extraordinary man. He was born in San Francisco in 1870 to Joseph and Jane Brandenstein (the name change to Bransten came [...]
A confession: I love billheads. You know the old receipts companies used to use between, say, the 1860s and the 1930s or 1940s. Some of them are so lovely with their illustrations and engravings. I especially admire illustrations of old company buildings, but illustrations of products can also be quite wonderful. We have a range [...]