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Valmadonna Trust Library

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The Valmadonna Trust Library is a collection of 13,000 books and manuscripts printed and handwritten in Hebrew or in Hebrew script, primarily collected by Jack V. Lunzer, a British industrial diamond merchant, born in Antwerp in 1924. It is named after Valmadonna, a small town near Alessandria in north-west Italy with longstanding connections to the Lunzer family.[1] Despite containing few books from the Americas, reflecting Lunzer's personal interests[1], the collection encompasses works from throughout the world, particularly Italy, "the cradle of Hebrew printing"[2], and covers over a millennium; many items in the collection are rare or unique, and many date back to the earliest Hebrew printings.[1],[2] According to Arthur Kiron, curator of Judaica collections at the University of Pennsylvania, "I don't know any other collection quite like it in private hands. It even rivals some of the great institutional collections in the world." [2]

Notable items in the collection include

  • A well-preserved set of the Babylonian Talmud (1519-23) designed by a panel of scholars and codifying many aspects of how the Talmud is laid out, printed in Venice by Daniel Bomberg; this was acquired by Lunzer from the collection of Westminster Abbey in exchange for a 900-year-old copy of the Abbey’s original Charter, and supporting endowments, fulfilling a 25 year dream.[2], [1]
  • A Hebrew Bible from England (known as the Codex Valmadonna I), handwritten in 1189 and looted the next year during the destruction of the Jewish community of York, which is the only known surviving Hebrew text from England dated prior to the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 under King Edward I.[1] ,[2]
  • A Franco-German Pentateuch, probably written in the tenth or eleventh century
  • One of the first illustrated Hebrew books: A 1492 Mishna with commentary by Maimonides
  • The first book printed in Lisbon, 1489, Nahmanides’ commentary on the Pentateuch.
  • A copy of every Hebrew book published in Cremona during the ten year period such printing was allowed, ending in the 1560s.[1]
  • The first book ever printed in Africa, a Hebrew book about prayer from 1516 Fez.[1]
  • A Book of Psalms with part of its Radak commentary crossed out by a Christian censor.
  • A 1666 Dutch newspaper with a front page headline and article describing Sabbatai Zevi
  • A Venice Sukka decoration from 1783

The collection, estimated to be worth in excess of $40 million, was placed for sale in early 2009 by Sotheby's, with the proviso that it be sold as a whole and not broken up.[1],[2] Lunzer, who is not benefitting from the proceeds of the sale, has stated that "I would like our library to be acquired by the Library of Congress. That would be my great joy."[2]

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