Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2007 Issue

Great Hebraica Exhibition at the Rosenbach

Exodus

If you ever need to leave Egypt in a hurry, this map of the Exodus could come in handy.


By Michael Stillman

The Rosenbach Museum and Library of Philadelphia will be conducting an exhibition of rare and never before seen Hebrew texts over the coming spring and summer. The exhibition, entitled Chosen: Philadelphia's Great Hebraica, opened March 29 and will run through August 26, 2007. On display will be approximately 60 books, scrolls, and other items gathered from the Rosenbach's collection and those of seven other Philadelphia area institutions. They date from as early as the 11th century.

Chosen helps tell the story of a people -- its culture, experiences, knowledge, art and religion. While there are different subcultures from varied lands represented, they are all tied to the common tradition of the Jewish people founded millennia ago. There are highly decorated and artistic scrolls and books, including a miniature the size of a thimble. Among the items on display are the first printed prayer book in Hebrew, a miniature scroll of the Book of Esther never before seen by the public, possibly the oldest Hebrew Bible in North America, the oldest nearly complete Passover Haggadah in existence, a Torah scroll with eleven commandments (but they don't tell us what the 11th is!), the first depiction of a map of the Exodus, the first book written by a Muslim that was translated into Hebrew, and the first scientific illustration of a liquid-in-glass thermometer.

The dining room in the Rosenbach house/museum has been set up for a Passover seder. Silver, glass and other tableware that was used by the Rosenbach family is used in this display.

The Rosenbach brothers were antiquarians and booksellers of the first half of the 20th century. Philip was more involved with art, while Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach was one of the giants of bookselling, serving the greatest and wealthiest collectors of his time. His client list included the likes of J. Pierpont Morgan, Harry Widener, Henry Folger, Henry Huntington, and Lessing Rosenwald. Their shop, with the "Doctor" operating the book side, opened near the turn of the century, aided by the inventory of their recently deceased bookseller uncle. They operated the business until they died in the 1950s. Their property and much of their collection/inventory was left to the museum they created. At one time, A.S.W. Rosenbach owned some of the most valuable books in the word -- Shakespeare first folios, even a Guttenberg Bible. However, those were for business. He had two personal collections, one of children's books (started by his uncle), and one of Judaica. He undoubtedly would have appreciated this exhibition at the museum and library which bears his and his brother's name.

To learn more about this exhibition, including hours and directions, go to the Rosenbach website: www.rosenbach.org.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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