Created June, 2016
Purpose of the Collection
The Kiev Judaica Collection serves as a nexus for GW students and faculty involved in study and inquiry related to Jewish history, culture and literature, supporting in the broadest sense the Judaic Studies Program of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. The collection contributes to the GW Libraries' vision to build robust and unique content to attract local, national and international scholars, while satisfying the university’s curricular needs and promoting research.
The major portion of the collection is Judaica published between the 19th century and the late 20th. These works encompass every area of the broad field of Judaic studies: precurrent Judaica, including Biblical, Talmudic and rabbinic literature; archaeology; ancient, medieval and modern Jewish history, culture and civilization; regional history, especially European and American; the Holocaust; Israel studies; religion; sociology; Hebrew literature, including ancient (Bible, Dead Sea Scrolls), medieval and modern; Yiddish and other Jewish languages and literatures; liturgical and secular texts; Hebraic and Judaic booklore; museology; music.
Nearly 500 years of printing are encompassed in the collection’s diverse antiquarian Hebraica, with examples from over 200 towns in 30 countries, among them books issued by Soncino and Bomberg in early 16th-century Italy. The collection includes many rabbinic, liturgical and secular works printed in Eastern and Central Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Aside from works in Hebrew, there is a selection of Yiddish literature, as well as sample texts in other languages using the Hebrew alphabet such as Aramaic, JudeoArabic, Ladino and Judeo-Persian.
The German holdings cover the gamut of German-Jewish writing (scholarship, religion, literature and culture), including works by such figures as Moses Mendelssohn, Heine, Buber and Freud, but mainly Judaica and orientalist works of the 19th and 20th centuries by both Jewish and non-Jewish scholars. The whole geography of Central European publishing is represented. Extensive bibliographic and book-historical literature includes numerous works by the founder of modern Hebrew bibliography M. Steinschneider, and catalogues from leading antiquarian booksellers.
Bibliography and Reference
The reference and bibliographic holdings run the full gamut of Hebraica and Judaica, from Bible and Hebrew literature to medieval and modern Jewish history, Jewish languages, intellectual history and the history of scholarship. Among these works are diverse encyclopedias, biographical and literary lexicons, dictionaries, regional history (Europe, America, North Africa, the Middle East and the Orient), linguistic bibliographies, and reference works devoted to sundry subjects. The bibliographic and book-historical literature covers antiquarian and general Hebrew booklore, book arts, printing history, typography, type design (incl. type specimens), censorship, manuscripts (from papyri and Dead Sea Scrolls to the Genizah, medieval manuscripts and fragments), paleography and codicology, manuscript illumination, library history, book and manuscript collections, catalogues of libraries and private collections, archival inventories, exhibition catalogues of libraries and museums. The collection is also strong in German-Jewish bibliographic literature.
Works on Jewish art – a field of ever growing academic and cultural interest - include ancient, medieval and modern art, seals, architecture, textiles, ossuaries and funereal art, regional and period art, collectors and collections, individual artists, schools and genres, comics, caricatures, and specialized studies of all sorts, exhibit catalogues, and journals of art history. The holdings in this area were broadened through the concerted efforts of Phyllis Kiev, and later by the addition of many art books from the library of the late Dr. Samuel Halperin. [The Kiev holdings are now supplemented by related literature in the Corcoran art history collection, now part of the GW Libraries.]
Modern Judaica in areas already covered in the GW Libraries' general collections are not acquired for the Kiev Collection. Inasmuch as the Kiev holdings are - apart from recent reference and bibliographic literature, and some art history – retrospective, acquisitions or donations of modern Judaica are not sought or accepted except in areas of the collection’s strengths as outlined above. An effort is made to direct donors of modern materials to other area specialists or to other local institutions.
The collection is comprised largely of English, Hebrew and German works published between the 18th and the 20th centuries. There is also a representative selection of earlier Hebraica and Judaica, including two Latin incunabula (two of the five pre-1500 books in the GW Libraries), one of them a hand-illuminated copy of Josephus, De Antiquitate Judaica (Venice, 1486). The German Judaica ranges from early works of Christian Hebraism from the 16th and 17th centuries to the literature of the Wissenschaft des Judentums in the 19th century, and extending to the Nazi period.
Period of Coverage/Dates of Coverage
Most printed materials in the collection are of the 19th and 20th centuries. There are a number of Hebrew titles from the 18th century, some from the 17th, and a few from the 16th and 15th. The two Latin incunabula are among the five oldest books in the GW Libraries. The collection also includes facsimiles of early printed books and of important ancient, medieval and later Hebrew manuscripts, including Dead Sea Scrolls, medieval Bible codices and illuminated and decorated manuscripts, drawn mostly from major European libraries.
Some antiquarian Hebraica are acquired to broaden historical and geographical coverage of pre-modern holdings in this language, e.g. from Eastern Europe and the Orient, including works from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. There are no geographical limits on acquisitions, but in general they are modern publications from America, Western Europe and Israel, with some antiquarian acquisitions of East European and Oriental Hebraica, and very occasionally pre-modern Judaica from western Europe.