Guide to the Research Collections

- Section -- II: -- THE HUMANITIES


This is a good working collection of 2,200 volumes with strong holdings on the Kabbala and Hasidism in the Jewish Division. The Slavonic Division collects works on Russian mystics primarily as examples of literature and only secondarily for their philosophical or religious aspects. A rare title edited by Johann Amos Comenius entitled Lux in tenebris (1657) was acquired in 1952. Described at the time of its acquisition as probably the only copy in this country, the book deals with prophecies made by three seventeenth-century seers.5

The Kabbala and Hasidism

Approximately 550 entries in the card catalog cover works on the Kabbala and editions of kabbalistic works from incunabula to the present day. Moses Nahmanides' commentary on the Pentateuch is in the kabbalistic manner; three of the Jewish Division's incunabula are editions of the work, published in Rome (ca. 1480), Lisbon (1489), and Naples (1490). A similar commentary by Bahya ben Asher, printed in Naples in 1492, is also in the division. Another significant group of material consists of texts of the Zohar (called the Kabbalistic Bible) from its first editions in Mantua and Cremona (1558-60) to the most recent printings. Further items are devoted to the renaissance of the Kabbala in sixteenth-century Palestine, primarily in the works of Moses Cordovero. The division has a first edition of his Pardes Rimonim [Garden of Pomegranates] (Krakow, 1591), and works from the school of Isaac Meyer collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Division also deals with the Kabbala.

The Research Libraries have a full collection, numbering over 500 book and journal article titles, of legends and works issued since the founding of the Hasidic movement in the eighteenth-century. Among them is the first printed work of Hasidism, that of Jacob Joseph, ha-Kohen, of Polonnoye issued in Koretz in 1780; also copies of the first collection of legends about the founder, Israel Baal Shem Tob, issued simultaneously in Berditchev and in Kopys in 1815. The modern literature of the movement is well represented. There are some 250 critical studies and exegeses.

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