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“Writing with Many Pens”: The first printed books

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The first printed Hebrew books from National Library of Israel and the Jewish Public Library in Montreal.

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This collaboration between two caretakers of rare Jewish volumes is part of the Jewish Public Library’s Dr. Michael D. Paul Rare Books Initiative, and celebrates the National Library of Israel’s new headquarters scheduled to open later this year.

The invention of the printing press, and the transition from the older tradition of hand-copied manuscripts radically changed Jewish culture. This partnership will bring together the earliest works in the collections of both the NLI and the JPL, and librarians from both institutions will show examples of the earliest printed books showing the changes that ensued in Jewish study and scholarship, in addition to the ways in which print culture and provenance converge. The manual work of manuscript creation gradually gave way to the mass production of the printing press, which the rabbis at the time described as the miracle of “writing with many pens”.

Dr. Yoel Finkelman (National Library of Israel) is curator of the Haim and Hanna Salomon Judaica Collection at the National Library of Israel. He is author of Strictly Kosher Reading: Popular Literature and the Condition of Contemporary Orthodoxy.

Nicole Beaudry (Jewish Public Library) worked at the Jewish Public Library for 6 years as a reference librarian, archivist, and children’s librarian. Her extensive research on the provenance and printing histories of the Jewish Public Library’s rare book collection has shaped the workshop initiative. She has a specific interest in the roles of women in the history of the Jewish printing industry.

Eddie Paul (Jewish Public Library) developed the Rare Books Initiative in 2014 to mark the JPL’s centennial year. In the spring of that year, he co-curated the exhibit of the rare books “A Roomful of Dwellings”, and 2 years later, co-curated the exhibit, “Decanting Memory” in a collaboration with the Jacob Lowy Collection of Library & Archives Canada. He developed the workshop programme as a way to keep the narratives and stories of these books alive and vital.


		“Writing with Many Pens”: The first printed  books image

		“Writing with Many Pens”: The first printed  books image

		“Writing with Many Pens”: The first printed  books image
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