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Celebrating Purim, Bezalel-Style: The Hebraic Section Welcomes a New Acquisition

(The following is a post by Ann Brener, Hebraic Specialist, African and Middle Eastern Division.) This year, the Hebraic Section celebrates the Jewish holiday of Purim with a splendid new Scroll of Esther, the biblical book retelling the familiar story of palace intrigue in ancient Persia and of the Jewish Queen Esther, who saved her people […]

Portrait of the Artist as Rain(bow) Maker: Joseph ben Meir Schmalkalden

In 2017, the Hebraic Section acquired a miniature Hebrew prayer-book of exceptional beauty and detail, handwritten and illustrated by one Joseph ben Meir Schmalkalden in Mainz, Germany in or around 1745. With its brightly painted images and exquisite detail, this miniature is one of the loveliest examples of a genre which enjoyed something of a renaissance in 18th century Central Europe. This blog places special emphasis on the life of the largely unknown artist who created this beautiful piece, and examines the connection between his signature and the rainbow with which he illuminated one of its pages.

“And for my glory a butterfly sews / A many-colored suit of clothes:” A Hebrew Tom Thumb by Chaim Nachman Bialik

In 1911, Jewish children in the Russian Empire woke up to find a Tom Thumb of their own, a Hebrew Tom Thumb of the greatest charm imaginable, and written, moreover, by that greatest of modern Hebrew poets, Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934). Bialik’s “Etsba’oni” first appeared in the pages of Ha-Shahar [The Dawn], one of a growing number of Hebrew periodicals created specifically for children in the early decades of the 20th century, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. The Library of Congress has an almost complete run of the periodical from its seven months of existence, covers included.

Worlds within Worlds, Books within Books: Hebrew Manuscripts as Binding for non-Hebrew Books

This blogpost highlights a single parchment leaf in Hebrew letters that has survived the centuries as binding for a Latin book printed in Frankfurt am Main in the late 16th century. The Hebrew leaf comes from a manuscript copy of “Beit Yosef” [The House of Joseph], a monumental code of Jewish law composed by Joseph Karo (1488-1575), one of the most important Jewish figures of all time.

Courting the Muse: Hebrew Wedding Poems from 18th-Century Italy

(The following is a post by Ann Brener, Hebraic Specialist in the African and Middle Eastern Division.) The spectacular news of the Venus flyby conducted by the Parker Solar Probe made headlines around the world last autumn, dazzling us all with its close-ups of the sun and reams of new data on nearby planets. Little […]

“A Maiden Studies the Hebrew Tongue:” Treasures from the Library of Congress Reflecting Jewish Women Readers through the Ages

(The following is a post by Ann Brener, Hebraic Specialist in the African and Middle Eastern Division.) The time is April, 1879; the place, some town or city within the vast Russian empire. Perhaps there is a chill in the air for in Russia the winters are long, and on a night like this it […]

Unicorns in the Hebraic Section of the Library of Congress

(The following is a post by Ann Brener, Hebraic Specialist in the African and Middle Eastern Division.) In the world of rare books, unicorns are frequently sighted on the pages of older works printed in the European countries, in languages such as Latin or French or English. There, in the guise of what is known […]

Bookselling at the Crossroads: An Anecdote of Hebrew Book History from the Early Ottoman Empire

(The following post is by Ann Brener, Hebraic area specialist in the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division.) The year is 1547; the place a synagogue in Constantinople, crossroads of Europe and Asia and capital of the burgeoning Ottoman Empire. Constantinople in this period is a vibrant, bustling metropolis, newly revitalized by the conquests of […]