National Library of Israel Acquires Valmadonna Trust Library of Hebrew Books and Manuscripts

The National Library of Israel announced today that it has acquired the finest private collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world, the renowned Valmadonna Trust Library, through a private sale arranged by Sotheby’s. The acquisition, made jointly with Archaeology, Books and Judaica collectors Dr. David and Jemima Jeselsohn, will be housed and highlights will go on show in the National Library of Israel’s landmark new building in Jerusalem, designed by award-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron, due to open to the public in 2020.  

Founded in 1892, The National Library of Israel (NLI) is unique among the great libraries of the world. It is the primary institution of national memory of the State of Israel and of Jewish people throughout the world and it is the home of the largest collection of works concerned with Jewish life and Israel, as well as a leading collection for Islamic and Middle Eastern studies.

Tasked with collecting, preserving and providing access to the cultural treasures of both the State of Israel and the international Jewish community, the NLI has recently embarked upon an ambitious initiative to transform itself into a cutting-edge global centre at the forefront of knowledge dissemination and cultural creativity.  This process is being driven by the principle of creating unprecedented public access to its priceless collections. The transition is taking place in the realm of content, with a wide range of cultural, educational, and technological initiatives already underway, as well as in the physical realm, with the construction of its new library building in the heart of Jerusalem adjacent to the Knesset.

The Valmadonna Trust Library was assembled over a period of more than six decades by visionary collector Jack Lunzer. It comprises a wide-ranging group of more than 10,000 works that chart the spread of Hebrew printing and the global dissemination of Jewish culture. Among the highlights of the collection are an incunabula of the Pentateuch, printed in Lisbon in 1491; one of only two surviving copies of a Passover Haggadah printed in Prague in 1556; The Plantin Polyglot or “King’s Bible,” printed in Antwerp between 1568 and 1573; and more than 550 broadsheets dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The acquisition is an important and exciting addition to the NLI’s collection. The printed works in the collection are in superb condition and the acquisition has enabled NLI to gain in one acquisition what would have taken decades to collect. The acquisition is made possible by a generous gift from the Haim and Hana Solomon Fund.

Throughout its renewal process, NLI has expanded its collections, while investing significant resources to make them available online. As part of its collection development, NLI has partnered with hundreds of institutions in Israel and across the world to provide access to cultural treasures, including many that are not among the National Library's physical holdings. The new NLI building will address the needs of leading scholars, while also opening access to intellectual and cultural treasures for the general public.

Says David Blumberg, Chairman, National Library of Israel: "The National Library of Israel is currently in the midst of a comprehensive renewal process by which it is fast becoming the most significant cultural institution in Israel and the Jewish world. Its new home, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, is currently being constructed adjacent to the Knesset and will be completed in less than four years' time. In this context, the Library continues to expand its collections tremendously, acquiring cultural and intellectual treasures ranging from ancient Jewish and Islamic manuscripts to contemporary music. The Valmadonna Trust Library represents an historic addition to our leading collection of Jewish manuscripts, prints and books, which reflect and embody the cultures of the Jewish people around the world and across the ages." 

Says Oren Weinberg, Director, National Library of Israel: "The acquisition of the Valmadonna and its arrival in Jerusalem present a tremendous opportunity for the National Library of Israel to further realize the vision of its renewal, as we will open access to these exquisite cultural treasures for researchers and the general public in Israel and across the globe."

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