The Politics of Library Collecting: David Oppenheim, chief rabbi of Prague (1703-1736)

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The volume Collectio Davidis/Qohellet David was published in 1826 in Hamburg, Germany, and was the final catalogue of a collection that had been inventoried every few decades since it was initiated in the 1670s. Behind a registry enumerating books and manuscripts in varying sizes, shapes, and paper qualities lie the activities of a collector, David Oppenheim, chief rabbi of Prague from 1703-1736. Over the course of five and a half decades, Oppenheim collected and created books and manuscripts, circulating literary material across Europe and the Mediterranean basin. He patronized the creation of new books in Hebrew and Yiddish, was visited by learned Christian Hebraists, directed philanthropy to the Land of Israel, and acted as a decisor and power-broker for Jews and their communal institutions across Central Europe.

Both as material objects and intellectual artifacts the books in this collection reveal elements of Jewish political culture: the knowledge stored in his collection was essential to the daily governance and religious lives of autonomous Jewish communities, while the motion of these objects themselves reveal the flows of favor and gift-givingthe non-institutional side of politics and administrationthat were essential to the conditions of premodern Jewish collective organization.

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The Politics of Library Collecting: David Oppenheim, chief rabbi of Prague (1703-1736)

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