THE VALMADONNA TRUST LIBRARY
Jack Lunzer, custodian. Opening remarks by Arthur Kiron, University of Pennsylvania.
The Valmadonna Trust Library in London is generally recognized to comprise the most important private collection of early and rare books in the world. Originating in Italy, the Valmadonna collection was at first composed of Hebrew books printed in Italy in the 16th century. The scope of the Valmadonna Library has since been extended to the entire field of Hebrew printing of the 16th century and beyond. Over the last thirty five years the library was augmented not only through assiduous collecting but also through the acquisition of several collections or libraries, among them the Jewish communal library of Gibraltar. Still concentrating on Italy, the collection now encompasses the whole range of Hebrew printing in Italy from the incunable period until the 19th century, with very full holdings of the major presses of Venice and Mantua, as well as numerous minor presses of the earlier and later periods. Mention must be made, in particular of the considerable holdings of imprints from Livorno, the Tuscan port famed for its prolific Hebrew press.
(…) Early Hebrew printing comprises a chapter in the annals of oriental typography in Europe, but its significance is far larger than that. Hebrew books, printed by Jews and by Christians, were part and parcel of the Renaissance cultural environment. The story of early Hebraica highlights the confluence as well as the clash of Jewish and non-Jewish worlds between the Middle Ages and the Baroque. The books of this unparalleled collection underscore the interplay, often inspiring and often tragic, between scholars, printers, craftsmen, financiers, churchmen, and censors in the formative years of the Hebrew press, before 1600.
May this glimpse in the Valmadonna Trust Library be enlightening not only to the student or scholar of Hebraica, but to all interested in the history of the book, in the typographic art, and in Medieval and Renaissance culture.
Brad Sabin Hill, Treasures of the Valmadonna Trust Library, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1990