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Collection Guide
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Sutro Library Hebraica, 1200s-1800s
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
This collection contains bible fragments and scrolls,as well as books and documents ranging in subject matter from Bible commenteries to hermenueutcs, lexicons, prayerbooks, philosophy, Cabalistic works, poetry, and medicine.
Background
This collection was acquired by San Francisco businessman and politician Adolph Sutro in 1884 from the estate of Moses W. Shapira, a Jerusalem bookseller and antiquities dealer. Shapira committed suicide just three months prior as the result of a scandal surrounding his proposed sale of a Deuteronomy scroll to the British Museum. Although the Hebraica collection has been cataloged four times, it is highly under-researched. The fourth and final cataloging/indexing was done in 1966 by Dr. William Brinner of the University of California, Berkeley with the goal to create an unbiased and well-researched description of the collection. Brinner’s list has provided the final arrangement. To obtain his descriptions, open the collection guide PDF. At the bottom is a link to the document with this list. This collection is primarily Yemenite in origin and has the potential to shed light on the intellectual and religious life of Jewish Yemenites. It is not known how the manuscripts and scrolls ended up with Shapira. However, as Brinner points out, the 1880s were a period of mass migration from not just Eastern Europe to Palestine, but from Yemen to Palestine as well. It seems likely that these items “may well have been among the articles of value brought from Yemen which these immigrants were forced to sell in a time of economic distress.”
Extent
32 linear feet
Restrictions
Availability
Please contact the Sutro Library directly.