Rare books acquisition: four Hebrew books from the 1500s

Picture of the four volumes

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is honoured to announce some new rare book acquisitions for the Jacob M. Lowy Collection: Divrei Rivoth (1582); Bible Hebrew, Five Scrolls (1561); Bible, Hebrew, Haphtaroth (1568); and Midrash Chamesh Megiloth Rabbati (1588). These volumes are among some of the oldest books in our collection.

We purchased these four books at auction, formally part of the Valmadonna Trust Library, the world’s largest private collection of rare Judaica. Last December, we acquired a book from the Valmadonna collection, the Mivachar Ha-Peninim (Choice of Pearls) by Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1484).

These four volumes will greatly enrich the Jacob M. Lowy Collection of rare Judaica, and will complement our holdings given the shared collecting interests of the original owners of the Lowy and Valmadonna collections.

About the books

Adarbi, Isaac ben Samuel. Divrei Rivoth. Salonika, David ben Abraham Azubib, 1582

This is a work of rabbinic responsa, a system of Jewish case law. These works are important in understanding the issues faced by the community that generated the questions and cases in need of rabbinic guidance. Once published, they become resources for other communities dealing with similar situations. This system of literature is still central to the development of Jewish religious life in Canada. This volume also contains some marginalia, providing additional insights into the text.

[Bible, Hebrew, Five Scrolls]. With commentaries by Isaac Arama, Rashi, and Targum. Riva di Trento, Jacob Marcaria, 1561

Book open to Hebrew text

Bible, Hebrew, Five Scrolls

This volume is a commentary by Isaac Arama on the Five Scrolls of the Hebrew Scripture: Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Esther. These five relatively short biblical books are grouped together in Jewish tradition, and are read as part of certain Jewish rituals. This acquisition enhances the extensive collection of Hebrew Bibles and commentaries collected by Mr. Lowy. This volume also contains some marginalia, providing additional insights into the text. This volume was censored, with certain words and phrases blacked out.

[Bible, Hebrew, Haphtaroth]. According to both Aschkenazi and Sephardi custom. Venice, Giovanni di Gara, 1568

This volume contains the section of the Hebrew Scripture read after the Torah reading in the synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath. The scriptural readings are complemented with the commentary of Rabbi David Kimchi, a noted medieval Hebrew grammarian. This volume contains the signature of a former owner.

Midrash Chamesh Megiloth Rabbati. Cracow, Isaac Prostitz, 1588

This volume is a Midrash, an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew Scriptures, which focuses on the Five Scrolls of the Hebrew Scripture: Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Esther. These five relatively short biblical books are grouped together in Jewish tradition, and are read as part of certain Jewish rituals. This volume also contains some marginalia, providing additional insights into the text. This volume has the signature of Moses Gaster, a former leader of London’s Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, which had close associations with Canada’s first synagogue, Montreal’s Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue.

Thank you to our donors

The acquisition of the Divrei Rivoth and the Midrash Chamesh Megiloth Rabbati were possible due to the generous support of Ruth and Arnon Miller.

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