A Virtual Guide to the Great Jewish Libraries and Rare Book Collections On-line

Hebrew Manuscripts, Incunabula, and Written Antiquities

Welcome to the Michael Davidson Early Hebrew Printing Homepage

Originally the goal of this page was to collect together the WWW sites illustrating early Hebrew printing and especially those sites with attractive images from these books. As I developed this page I included links to other sites peripheral to early printing such as maps, drawings, manuscripts, illuminations, charters, even postcards and historical photos such as might interest a student of early printing.

Enjoy what is here, the little page that grew. Drop me a note if you find that any of the pages listed have gone away or if you can suggest others that I should add.

Michael Davidson (
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

By the way, I am a book collector with an interest in Hebraica and I have in my library over [Counter] old rare Hebrew books. (Like dream on - I wish.) Last updated December 27, 2001.

Moses b. Jacob, of Coucy (France), fl. 13th century, Sefer Mitsvot Gadol Soncino: - printed Gershom b. Moses Soncino, 1488
Incunabula, Hebraica and Judaica Exhibition -- The On-line Illustrated Catalog of the Jacob M. Lowy Collection

The Jacob M. Lowy Collection of the National Library of Canada The Jacob M. Lowy Collection consists of old and rare Hebraica and Judaica comprising 3000 printed books from the 15th to the 20th century, including nearly 40 Hebrew and Latin incunables, over 120 editions of bibles in many languages and numerous editions of the works of the first century historian Josephus. Very strong in its holdings of Italian Hebraica, the Collection is also rich in examples of Hebrew printing emanating from Spain to the Orient. The intellectual scope of the Collection spans religious, scientific, historical and philological thought of five centuries. A further 1000 volumes focusing on the origin, spread and collecting of printed and manuscript Hebraica and Judaica form the monographic core of the Lowy reference collection. Also available are numerous institutional and exhibition catalogues, bibliographical journals and the classic Judaic encyclopedias. The Saul Hayes Collection of 200 original manuscripts in Hebrew and other Jewish languages is also located in the Jacob M. Lowy Room, along with microform holdings of the manuscript collections of selected European institutions. The older page for the Lowy Collection is still on-line. The Jacob M. Lowy Collection of the National Library of Canada Aussi disponsibe en français. La Collection Jacob M. Lowy d'ouvrages hébraïques et judaïques rares et vieux

A Map of the Holy Land, Jacobus Tirinus, Antwerp, 1632
From The Jewish Theological Seminary Library Special Collections

Jewish Theological Seminary Library Special Collections Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary is one of the world's premier research libraries of Judaica and Hebraica. More than a thousand years of written history are to be found within the library's three hundred seventy-five thousand volumes, eleven thousand Hebrew manuscripts, thirty thousand rare books, forty thousand Genizah fragments and thousands of rare documents and prints. The remarkable treasures represent scholarship in the areas of Bible, liturgy, rabbinics, kabbala, philosophy, philology and history. The Special Collections are rich in primary sources for research in Bible, rabbinics, Jewish philosophy, liturgy, history, and medieval Hebrew literature. The collection is particularly comprehensive in rabbinics - the Talmud and cognate literature. Included in this division are several thousand volumes of codes, responsa and commentaries which contain considerable historical information for students of the Middle Ages. The Special Collections also include:

While you are there take a look at their Scripture and Schism. This exhibit on the Samaritans and the Karaites is highly recommended. See also JTS Library Exhibits Page or their exhibition Towards the Eternal Center: Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple or stop to study KRUZIM: Proclamations from the walls of Jerusalem

Sefer Kedushat Levi al HaTorah
Levi Isaac ben Meir, of Berdichev (1740-1809), Lemberg, 1864

InterJudaica A wonderful page with many fine and interesting antique Hebraica books all with large pictures of their title pages from 18th, 19th and 20th Century to admire. InterJudaica the on-line bookstore is operated by Ernesto Yattah who lives Buenos Aires, Argentina. "Latin American Judaica at the reach of your hand" InterJudaica also carries out-of-print Spanish and Yiddish studies of Argentina and Latin American Jewish communities, Latin American Jewish periodicals, Jews in the Soviet Union, Sefardica literature, Zionism, Israel and the Middle East, Holocaust and Nazism, history, culture, religion and literature, Judaism and Christianity, Out-of-print miscellanea, Dictionaries. InterJudaica also has a selection of in-print Judaica titles in Spanish.

The Transformation of the "Aleph"
From Written to Printed Text: The Transmission of Jewish Tradition

From Written to Printed Text: The Transmission of Jewish Tradition Center for Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania. This serious and in depth discussion of Jewish printing includes illustrated discussions of: The Historical Geography of Jewish Printing, The Fonts and Formats of Jewish Printing, Jewish Liturgy: The Siddur and the Mahzor, The Passover Haggadah, The Word of God: The Hebrew Bible, Law and Lore: Mishnah, Talmud and Halakha, Print and the Preacher.

Kennicott Bible - La Coruna, Spain 1476
Facsimile Editions of London England

Facsimile Editions of London England.
Michael and Linda Falter formed Facsimile Editions in 1980, which was to be dedicated to bringing out of obscurity some of the finest and most important illuminated manuscripts in the world and reproducing them to a standard hitherto unknown in the history of publishing. They would strive to recreate not only the appearance of the originals but also the overall aura of the manuscript. It took them more than five years to produce their first facsimile, the Kennicott Bible. Their web pages for each of the fantastic manuscripts listed below are richly illustrated with beautiful illuminations and include scholarly notes.

The Alba Bible - 15th Century In 1422 against a backdrop of intense anti-Jewish feeling in Spain, Don Luis de Guzmán, Grand Master of Calatrava, arrived at a decision that only by commissioning a Castilian Bible, translated directly from the Hebrew, accompanied by a commentary reflecting the Jewish understanding of the texts, would Christians comprehend differences between Christian and Jewish attitudes, and come to tolerate each other's views. A facsimile publication from Finn's Fine Books.

Ancient Near Eastern Resources at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Philology projects, for example, include reports on Achaemenid Royal Inscriptions, Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, Dead Sea Scrolls Project, Demotic Dictionary, Epigraphic Survey, Hittite Dictionary, and a Sumerian Lexicon.

For more on Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform texts I also highly recommend the Akkadian language Page by John Heise.

[the rabbit]
Cod. Or. 4723, Moreh Nevukhim by Moses Maimonides
from Hebrew books and manuscripts in the Leiden University Library

Moreh Nevukhim by Maimonides
This beautifully manuscript has a page showing dozens of images of its illustrations. The strict interpretation of the Old Testament prohibition against graven images precluded the use of illustration in many Hebrew and Islamic religious texts, but commentaries, secular and mystical texts were often illustrated with decorative and not representational pictures or diagrams as is this manuscript. We especially notice folio 133a. a full historiated page of this book with an interlaced pattern such is found in some Turkish and Islamic designs. From Hebrew books and manuscripts in the Leiden University Library

Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer Electronic Text Editing Project
The complete digitization of three copies of this book. The first edition of 1514 Constantinople, and two manuscripts. Perhaps 300 large scans showing each page of each item. From the Hebrew Union College, Klau Library.

Dalsheimer Rare Book Exhibit
showing treasures from the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion including Jewish Music, Haggadah, Sixteenth Century Hebrew Printing, Bookplates, Manuscripts, Stamps, Bindings, Jewish Americana, Broadsides, Maps, and the Jews of Kaifeng.

The Alba Bible
was created near the end of the manuscript era in fifteenth century Spain. (Special Collections, Golda Meir Library) A single page from the Classic Text Home Page at the University of Wisconsin.

Hebrew medical manuscript
Italy, fifteenth century A.D. The miniature illustrates the topic of bloodletting. --- from the Cambridge University Library.

Moses receives the Ten Commandments A beautiful minature in the Gothic style from the Reuben Machsor mechol haschana (Jewish Holy Day Prayer Book for the Whole Year) Germany, ca. 1290 part of the Treasures of Saxon State Library

Rylands Hebrew MS 6. A richly decorated Haggadah, or service book used at the Seder on Passover eve, produced in Spain, possibly Catalonia in the mid-14th century.

Manuscripts, Paleography, Codicology Not specifically for Hebraica, but a page with 50 links to scholarly manuscript studies all over the web.

Armarium Labyrinthi: Labyrinth Latin Bookcase A Latin and Greek bookcase. Links to the Latin Vulgate, Gregorian chants, Aristotle, Galen, Plotinus, Apuleius, Boethius, Dante.

The Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts
at the Jewish National and University Library "... our first duty is to save Hebrew literature. There are thousands of Hebrew manuscripts lying idle in various libraries ... Many of them have vanished in the darkness of the past or have been destroyed by the wrath of oppressors ... It is the duty of the State of Israel to acquire and gather those exiles of the spirit of Israel dispersed in the Diaspora. I do not think that it will be possible to acquire ... the original manuscripts, but their reproductions ... will have the same practical value as the manuscripts themselves ..." (David Ben Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, March 5, 1950). Recommended. Click here for a great graphic of rolled up manuscripts 132K.

The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Fragments at the University of Cambridge
"The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection is a priceless accumulation of centuries-old Hebrew manuscript material and Judaica, recovered from the Cairo Genizah in 1896-97. It has occupied a place of honour among the literary treasures of the University of Cambridge for almost a century and is housed at Cambridge University Library. The Collection was the gift in 1898 of the noted scholar Dr Solomon Schechter and his friend and patron, Dr Charles Taylor. Schechter had conceived the idea of bringing to the University the precious manuscript material he suspected could be found in the Genizah (depository for worn-out copies of sacred Jewish writings) of the thousand-year-old Ben Ezra Synagogue of Fostat (Old Cairo). The Genizah fragments are very exciting, especially to visitors familiar with their history. This site includes graphic images showing two letters signed by Maimonides, a Zakodite fragment, notes by Josef Karo and Yehudah Halevi. It was a discovery comparable to that of finding the Dead Sea scrolls. N.B. A Basic Bibliography of the Genizah Collection

The Princeton Genizah Project . Look especially at the The Princeton Genizah Project Index Page for links to other Genizah archives around the world. The Princeton University Library - Jewish Studies Resources is an important page with many scholarly links, by the way.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship -- an Exhibit at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC "Over the years questions have been raised about the scrolls' authenticity, about the people who hid them away, about the period in which they lived, about the secrets the scrolls reveal, and about the intentions of the scrolls' custodians in restricting access." Italics mine. A great series of pages with texts, images, descriptions, artifacts, everything. See also the home page for the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The have a nifty Tour of the Qumran cave. Also recommended is the Scroll Fragments from the Qumran Library which I found on the Expo - WWW exhibitions Organizations page. Be sure to look at Mitchell A. Hoselton's Resources for Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls if you are interested in the scrolls.

The Orion Centre for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature Visit here. 80 or so full papers relating to Qumram, the Damascus Document, Mishnah, Karaite literature, etc...

The Hebraic Section of the Library of Congress No pictures but a full description of the library. Look also at the Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress with a digression on The Hebraic Section. Among its holdings is this charming pastel watercolor wall plaque depicting the holy cities of the Holy Land -- Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, and Safed. The plaque was painted in Palestine in the second half of the nineteeth century.

A Page from the Babylonian Talmud "The standard printed Talmud page, spans many centuries of Jewish religious scholarship, from the Bible to the beginning of the twentieth century." A very well done and serious site describing the history and layout of a page of Talmud. Excellent notes on all the commentators and other codes of law. Good use of graphics. Highly recommended!

Tanya, Slavita, 1796 -- by the Alter Rebbe
Classic Chassidic Works in the Chabad-Lubavitch Library

Classic Chassidic Works in the Chabad-Lubavitch Library Library Of Agudas Chassidei Chabad - Ohel Yosef Yitzchak Lubavitch. An exhibition on classic texts written by or about the chassidic masters: The Baal Shem Tov, The Mahgid of Mezritch, The Alter Rebbe, The Mitteler Rebbe, The Rebbe "Tzemach Tzedek", etc.. This library is precious. Make sure you look at the on-line library exhibits and the library history. "The Library is one of the most distinguished Judaic libraries, containing approximately 250,000 books, the majority of which are aged and rare."

Peoples of the Book Bibliotheca Schoenbergensis: An Exhibition from the Collection of Lawrence J. Schoenberg. An interesting page including two Islamic manuscripts, an Indian manuscript and two Hebrew manuscripts: Megillat Esther - Italy, 15th century and Commentary to Beit Elohim and Sha'ar ha-Shamayim Moses Almosnino (ca. 1515-ca. 1580) - Salonika, mid-16th century. See the home page for excellent notes and the other manuscripts.

A Great Assemblage An Exhibit of Judaica in honor of the opening of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale. Includes several antique ketubah, photographs and books. See especially the Puru "The lot of Yahali" 9th Century B.C.E. It provides a prototype (the only one ever recovered) for the lots (purim) cast by Haman to fix a date for the destruction of the Jews of the Persian Empire, ostensibly in the fifth century B.C.E. ((Esther 3:7; cf. 9:26).

Hebrew Bible Bibiolography A scholarly bibliography on the Hebrew Bible Prepared by: Aurel Ionica, Divinity Library, Vanderbilt University

Treasures from the YIVO Archives "YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was founded in 1925 in Vilna as a home for Yiddish scholarship. Libraries and archives formed an integral part of it from the beginning. By 1938, the library had 40,000 volumes, including rare editions and unique copies. In 1941, many YIVO treasures were lost to the Nazi occupation. Much of this material was later uncovered in the American Zone of Germany (1945) and turned over to YIVO headquarters in New York where it was reconstituted as YIVO's Vilna collection (1947). The New York YIVO grew out of the Central Jewish Library and (Press) Archives founded in New York in 1935 by a group of Jewish cultural leaders active in Yiddish-speaking circles."

Henry Hollander, Bookseller Specializing in Judaica, Antiquarian, & Scholarly Books. A very full site with lots to look at including a large collection of early 20th century scanned postcard images with scenes from the Holy Land. They also sell the A Song of David, a Limited Edition Facsimile of the Moss Haggadah.

Moshe Nathan Rosenfeld, London, Publishers and Booksellers of Hebraica and Judaica Publishes original works such as Jewish Printing in Germany -- Volume 1: Jewish Printing in Wilhermsdorf by Moshe Nathan Rosenfeld, with an appendix "Archival Notes" by Ralf Rossmeissl, with Volume 2: Jewish Printing in Karlsruhe or reproduction facsimile editions of early books such as the KUHBUCH, (The Book of Cows), Verona 1595 a Yiddish collection of fables and tales, containing 83 woodcuts. or Shemot Devorim, Elijah Levita, Isny 1542. First German/Latin/Hebrew/Yiddish dictionary. Paris un’ Vienna, Verona 1594 A Yiddish tale translated by Elijah Levita, containing many woodcuts. His page is decorated with woodcuts from his editions.

"The Dorot Jewish Division of The New York Public Library is one of the great collections of Judaica in the world and the most accessible for both scholarly and personal use. Each year nearly 10,000 people use the noncirculating material available in the Jewish Division's reading room. The breadth of the Jewish Division rests on a foundation of early rarities. These treasures include forty fifteenth-century books and over 1,500 sixteenth-century works. These first texts of Jewish scholarship disseminated by the newly invented printing press had a lasting impact on Jewish thought and are the root of many areas of study. Among these riches are the Arba'ah Turim, a code of law by Jacob ben Asher printed in 1475 and the earliest dated Hebrew book extant. Also notable are the Sefer Middot, an ethical treatise published in 1542, which is one of the earliest printed Yiddish books, and Moses Almosnino's Regimento de la Vida (1564), the first printed original work in Ladino or Judeo-Spanish. A fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript Mahzor (Festival Prayer Book) in two volumes, probably written in the Rhine valley, and a fifteenth-century manuscript Mahzor in two volumes from Italy are both rare and very fine. Several ornately illustrated manuscript marriage contracts including some from the seventeenth-century are among the most beautiful of the Division's holdings." No pictures.

The Judaica Archival Project (JAP)
"is a non-profit, preservation and access program of Machon Mekorot Institute, located at The Jewish National and University Library (JNUL), on the Hebrew University Givat Ram campus in Jerusalem. Since 1990 JAP has preserved over half a million pages from thousands of rare, out-of-print and classic Hebrew works in Rabbinics at JNUL. Now these titles are available to you over the Internet in conventional and electronic facsimile editions! These include Responsa, Commentaries, rare First Editions, Kabbala, Encyclopedias, Homiletics, Incunabula, Periodicals, Midrash, and basic texts in Rabbinics from the worlds largest Hebrew library. It's simple and inexpensive to order authentic reproductions from rare and reference Jewish books here on our home-page." If you like old books their microfiche catalog is totally awesome. Two other must see pages are their Landmarks in Hebrew Publishing page which provides a list of significant dates in Jewish printing from 1475 when the first dated Hebrew work is printed in Reggio di Calabria through 1697 when Jacob Proops begins printing in Amsterdam and their Preservation of 19th Century Printing by the Judaica Archival Project page which describes how paper acidification is destroying Jewish collections today. Their pages are good examples of bad web design - their backgrounds make their text unreadable.

Judaica Libraries on the Web
Another collection of Jewish library links. Less descriptive than mine perhaps, but more links.

Association of Jewish Libraries Links to libraries and museums.

Mendel Gottesman Library of Hebraica/Judaica
The Mendel Gottesman Library of Hebraica/Judaica at Yeshiva University houses one of the world's great Judaic research collections. The Library is particularly strong in the fields of Rabbinics, Bible, Jewish history, Jewish philosophy, and Hebrew language. The collection consists of more than 200,000 printed volumes in a variety of languages, dating from the 15th century to the present day.

Brandeis University Judaica Collections
Yiddish Sheet Music, Zionism, American Zionism, Jewish Labor Committee Records, Polish, Latin American and Chinese Jewish Studies.

Can't come to the phone right now...

The Jewish Studies collection in the McLennan-Redpath Library McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The scope of this collection is broad, encompassing most aspects of Jewish civilization biblical and rabbinic studies, Hasidism, mysticism and other Jewish movements, Jewish history and philosophy, Hebrew and Yiddish and other Jewish languages and literatures. The Rare Books Department houses other early printed works of relevance to Jewish Studies. No pictures.

Bibliotheca magna rabbinica, Roma 1675 A bibliography on early Hebrew printing from Italy

Traditions of Magic in Late Antiquity A wonderful exhibit of magical receipe books, amulets and carved gems, and Babylonian demon bowls from the 1st to the 7th centuries AD. Special Collections Library at the University of Michigan.

Renaissance Hebraica Chaim Reich, the man behind Renaissance Hebraica, shares his passion of antique seforim with the world. In order to make a good copy of a four to five hundred year old sefer, Chaim Reich sometimes has to track down six or seven tattered copies, slowly piecing parts of pages together. From these bits and pieces he is able to present one complete copy. This "complete" copy is then duplicated and sold to the general public.

If you like this page, why not look at my Glenn Gould page. Again, drop me a note if you find that any of the pages listed have gone away or if you can suggest others that I should add.

Regards, Write sometime.

Michael Davidson (
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada