2000 Years of Jewish Culture: an Exhibition at Shapero Rare Books

Bernard Shapero of Shapero Rare Books and Sandra Hindman of Les Enluminures are delighted to present 2000 Years of Jewish Culture: an exhibition of books, manuscripts, art, and jewellery.

A selling show, it is the first of its kind ever staged in the UK in a private space, and, accordingly, it will be marked by the publication of a fully illustrated catalogue. It encompasses every aspect of Jewish life, including philosophy, religion, literature, photography, fine art and jewellery. 

Says curator Bela Goldenberg Taieb: Each of the assembled artifacts - the oldest of which is a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls -  is representative of a particular field of endeavour, and as such they collectively offer a truly compelling picture of the Jewish contribution to world culture.'

The exhibition, which features over 100 objects, will be arranged over the basement, ground and first floor of Shapero’s Mayfair premises. It presents several important rare books, the subjects of which span the tenth to the twentieth centuries, including first editions of some important examples of Anglo-Judaica. 

Books and Manuscripts:

  • A group of 5 fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • A 13th century Hebrew manuscript of The Book of Genesis on vellum, originating in Germany; a 12th-13th century manuscript of The Book of Psalms and a 14th -15th century Byzantine manuscript of the Passover Haggadah.
  • The first English translation of the Haggadah. The book was issued in two editions and represents the only known appearance of Ladino in Hebrew letters in a London imprint. The present edition is in fact so rare that it is not found in either the British Library nor the Bodleian Library. Its translator, Alexander ben Judah Leib, was one of the pioneers of the Hebrew printing in London, and was responsible for establishing the Hebrew Press in London in 1770. This Haggadah was the second book published by him, following an earlier bilingual Common-Prayer-Book, also featured in this exhibition, along with his first edition of the Pentateuch.
  • The first book by Ka-Tzetnik. Entitled Tzveiuntzvantzik - Lider (Twenty-Two Poems), the book is possibly the most complete copy currently in existence of Ka-Tzetnik’s first book of Yiddish poetry, published in 1931.  Born Yehiel Feiner, he is one of the most important Israeli authors. During WWII, Feiner spent two years (1943-1944) as a prisoner in Auschwitz concentration camp, and was the sole survivor out of his entire family. While being led out of the camp to be shot, he managed to escape and in 1945 arrived in Palestine and became a famous Holocaust novelist. His nom de plume, Ka-Tzetnik 135633, refers to the words ‘Concentration Camper’ in Yiddish slang, and his prisoner number. Ka-Tzetnik famously hunted down his only pre-war book in public libraries and has creatively destroyed most of them.
  • A collection of Zionist books and artifacts, including Herzl’s portrait by Hermann Struck, signed by Herzl himself; first editions of Herzl’s seminal work Der Iudenstaat, photographs and letters. 

Photographs of and by distinguished twentieth century Jews:

  • Autographed photographs of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. The latter portrait is inscribed with a note of remembrance from Sigmund Freud to Dr. Smiley Branton, an intimate friend and a former patient, who underwent psychoanalysis in 1929. Blanton was the author of the best-selling self-help guide, Love or Perish, 1956, a speech pathologist and psychoanalyst in New York for many years.
  • A seminal photograph by Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage is Stieglitz’s most iconic photograph, and was proclaimed by the artist and illustrated in histories of the medium as his first Modernist photograph. Taken in 1907 aboard the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II, the work marks Stieglitz’s transition away from painterly prints of Symbolist subjects to a more straightforward depiction of life.

Depictions of the Holy Land:

  • One of the most impressive engraved panoramic views of Jerusalem by Wencelaus Hollar (Ierusalem, 1660). Its representation of the First Jewish Temple at Jerusalem (aka Solomon's Temple) is based on earlier engravings that were published in Rome in 1604. Inside the city’s walls, Solomon’s Temple and the Palace of King David are figured prominently on the Temple Mount. Hollar was a prominent Bohemian etcher in the 17th century. In a career of some 50 years, he produced almost 3,000 etchings on a variety of subjects, with the direct, realist style that makes them very valuable historical documents. The British Museum, the print room at Windsor Castle and the National Gallery in Prague all hold near complete collections of Hollar’s work.
  • A spectacular early photograph of the old city of Jerusalem and its surrounding hills by the renowned British photographer, Francis Frith. From his perspective on the Mount of Olives, Frith captured the walls of the ancient city with houses and buildings indistinguishable within. Some early photographs of Jerusalem by Felix Bonfils will also be exhibited.
  • A coloured woodcut map of the Holy Land by Claudius Ptolemaeus is a fine example with rich original colour. Printed in 1482, it provided the basic image of the Holy Land until the 18th century.

Jewellery:

  • A collection of Jewish wedding rings. Dating from between the 16th and 19th centuries, the rings feature miniature palaces, castles and temples in the place of gemstones, the roofs of which often open like a locket to reveal a Hebrew inscription.

Cuisine:

  • Jewish cuisine is represented by Lady Judith (Cohen) Montefiore’s Jewish Cookery by a Lady. When this book was first published in 1846, the identity of ‘the Lady’ to whom the work is accredited was unknown. Only after later scholarship did the identity become apparent. The Montefiores observed the Mosaic dietary laws and kept a strictly kosher kitchen. This required that their meat be ritually slaughtered and that they observe the biblical injunctions on mixing dairy with meat, and avoid eating pork, shell-fish, hares, rabbits and swans.
  • A seminal 16th century Hebrew manuscript on vellum listing the rules and laws of Kosher slaughter and food preparation -  Sefer Shechitot U’Bedikot by Rabbi Ya’akov Weil. 

Art:

  • Colour lithographic limited edition artist books by Mark Chagall, including Drawings for the Bible (1960), Vitraux pour Jérusalem (1962) and Psaumes de David (1979).
  • Folio of lithographic portraits by Oscar Kokoschka, entitled Jerusalem Faces (1973), which includes a portrait of Golda Meir.
  • Folio of woodcut prints by Reuven Rubin entitled The God Seekers (1923). Rubin was a Romanian-born Israeli painter and Israel's first ambassador to Romania. He is considered one of the founders of the Eretz-Yisrael style in painting.
  • Magnificently illustrated limited edition Passover Haggadah, on vellum, with illustrations by Arthur Szyk, signed by both Szyk and Cecil Roth (the editor) produced in 1939. Arthur Szyk was a Polish-Jewish artist, illustrator and caricaturist, who produced works characterised in their material content by social and political commitment, and in their formal aspect by the rejection of Modernism and the influence of the traditions of Medieval and Renaissance painting, especially illuminated manuscripts from those periods. Unlike most caricaturists, Szyk always showed great attention to the colour effects and details in his works.
  • The first illustrative drawings of Lucian Freud. These appeared in a collection of poems by Nicholas Moore. Published in 1944, the same year as Freud's first solo exhibition, the illustrations include a number of motifs that Freud would revisit, making this an interesting record of his early work. Additionally, an early Lucian Freud drawing from c.1942 will be shown. 

 

Exhibition dates: 4th November - 19th November, 2016

Shapero Rare Books

32 St. George Street

London W1S 2EA

A number of events have been planned to complement the exhibition. These include the following:

Gallery Talks (to take place at Shapero Rare Books):

Speaker: Sharon Liberman Mintz, the Curator of Jewish Art, The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

Subject:  ‘Hebrew Manuscripts and Jewish Culture’

Date: Tuesday November 1st, 7 pm (opening night)

Speaker: Beatriz Chadour-Sampson, Jewelry historian, curator and author 

Subject: ‘Jewish Wedding Rings’

Date: Thursday November 3rd, 7 pm

 

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