Hebrew library exhibited at Sotheby’s

Artdaily.org is reporting that Sotheby’s will be displaying 11,000 works from the Valmadonna Trust Library. This looks like an amazing exhibit and will feature the Bomberg Talmud, dating from 1519-1523. It is said to be “nearly perfectly preserved.” (See the brief story of its acquisition below.)

“Grace After Meals and other Benedictions,” Vienna , 18th century. An extraordinary illuminated manuscript.
“Grace After Meals and other Benedictions,” Vienna , 18th century. An extraordinary illuminated manuscript.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s announced today that it would display in its entirety, for the first time ever, the Valmadonna Trust Library, the finest private library of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world. Assembled over the past century, this extensive group of over 11,000 works is monumental in its significance as a primary source on both world history and Jewish life and culture. The collection boasts rarities dating from the 10th century to the early 20th century from Italy, Holland, England, Greece, Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, India, and China, documenting the spread of the Hebrew press and the dissemination of Jewish culture around the globe. Among the treasures in the collection are: the only surviving manuscript written in England before the expulsion of the Jews in 1290; arguably the finest copy of the Babylonian Talmud produced between 1519 and 1523 by famed printer Daniel Bomberg, which was previously in the collection of Westminster Abbey; as well as the preeminent group of Hebrew books in existence from the dawn of printing (15th century). The entire collection will be exhibited in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries from February 9-19, 2009, with the exception of February 14th.

Codex Valmadonna I
The jewel in the Valmadonna Library’s crown is one of the most important privately-owned books in the world – a Pentateuch (Hebrew Bible), written in England the summer of 1189. Known as the Codex Valmadonna I, this extraordinary book is the only dated Hebrew text in existence from medieval
England, before King Edward I’s 1290 edict expelling the Jews.

The Bomberg Talmud

The Valmadonna Library’s copy of a nearly perfectly-preserved Bomberg Talmud was kept for centuries in the library of Westminster Abbey. In 1956, Mr. Lunzer attended an exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum celebrating 300 years of Jewish resettlement in England. It was there that he first became aware of the Abbey’s magnificent and complete copy of the Talmud, and vowed somehow to acquire it. He spent the next twenty-five years determined to fulfill this virtually impossible ambition. Eventually, he purchased a 900-year-old copy of the Abbey’s original Charter, and presented it, along with supporting endowments, to the Abbey in exchange for its copy of the Bomberg Talmud.

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