The Glory of the Jewish Book

19 September 2016 until 8 January 2017

The written word has a special status in Jewish culture. Over the centuries, the continuity of tradition, the book and the Hebrew language have united Jews around the world. Jewish books produced in Europe are the theme of the present exhibition: The Glory of the Jewish Book. Many of the exhibits are from Ets Haim - Livraria Montezinos, the world's oldest extant Jewish library housed in Amsterdam's Portuguese synagogue complex. Indeed, the exhibition marks the library's 400th anniversary.

Many of the Iberian Jews who began to arrive in Amsterdam at the end of the sixteenth and start of the seventeenth century had been living as Catholics for several generations after Jews had been banished or forced to convert to Christianity at the end of the fifteenth century. The rabbis who led the new communities these immigrants set up, attempted to foster a unique new Portuguese Jewish identity in Amsterdam. An essential aspect of that process was the publication of books. The new Jewish community was able to draw on centuries of Jewish book tradition in Europe. That is why the Jewish Historical Museum has chosen to augment this presentation of works from Ets Haim with famous examples from other collections.

Mahzor, (Western Ashkenazic), Germany, 1345
Mahzor, (Western Ashkenazic), Germany, 1345. Coll. Vatican City, Biblioteca Vaticana, Rome

For the first time, the Vatican Library has agreed to lend out a number of exceptional mediaeval items from its huge collection of Hebrew manuscripts. These are especially notable for their astonishing decorations. A prize exhibit from the Vatican of quite a different order is the sole remaining contemporary handwritten copy of De Ethica by philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). Long considered lost, it was rediscovered in the Vatican Library in 2011.

In addition, the museum also has the privilege of showing a number of loans from the famous Braginsky Collection from Zurich. Swiss collector René Braginsky has accumulated the finest private collection of Hebrew manuscripts in the world, which was exhibited earlier in Amsterdam in 2009. The items on show in this exhibition include some of his latest acquisitions. Visitors to The Glory of the Jewish Book will certainly be conscious of having had the privilege of seeing some of the finest otherwise little known, inaccessible treasures of the Jewish world.


This exhibition is on view at the Jewish Historical Museum.


Would you like to visit the Jewish Cultural Quarter? Buy your tickets online.
Your ticket will give access to the Jewish Historical Museum, the Portuguese Synagogue, the Hollandsche Schouwburg, the JHM Children's Museum, and the National Holocaust Museum. You can visit all four locations with one ticket, which is valid for one month!

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