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The Royal Library: National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library

The Royal Library holds valuable collections of Judaica and Hebraica. Manuscripts and printed works have been acquired for the royal collections since the Renaissance. In the 17th and 18th centuries the collections were expanded by acquisitions in Denmark and abroad. In the 19th century, the growing discipline of Jewish studies and the emergence of Biblical criticism led to further expansion. A pivotal moment came in 1932, with the acquisition of David Simonsen’s library and archives.

David Simonsen and his wife Cora 1932
David Simonsen and his wife Cora, 1932, Royal Library of Denmark.

Since the mid-1980s, approximately 125 manuscripts including haggadot (the Passover liturgy), mohel books (circumcision liturgies), megillot (Esther scrolls) and marriage contracts deposited by the Jewish Community of Copenhagen were added to the collection.Early printed books in Hebrew and Yiddish complement the Library’s Jewish collections.

The digital collections include the correspondence of Chief Rabbi David Simonsen (1853-1932): approx. 29,000 letters to and from some 5,000 correspondents, which mirrors his scholarly network as well as his deep involvement in humanitarian efforts during and after World War I. So far one-third of this collection has been made available online. The 190 manuscripts in 15 languages from 20 countries collected by Simonsen testify to his wide range of interests. The collection as a whole was not damaged in the turmoil of World War II, which makes it, in a European perspective, very rare.

Among the treasures of the Library’s collections is the ‘Guide for the Perplexed’ by Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), a preeminent Jewish philosopher and Torah scholar of the Middle Ages. The work was originally written in Judeo Arabic and translated to Hebrew in cooperation with the author. This illuminated manuscript, also known as ‘the Copenhagen Maimonides’, was produced in Barcelona in 1347-48. It is one of the finest examples of the Catalan illumination traditions of that era.

Documents for Royal Library of Denmark
      Royal Library of Denmark.
Royal Library of Denmark exterior
Den Sorte Diamant (The Black Diamond) is an extension to the Royal Library on Slotsholmen in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Copenhagen Maimonides
The Copenhagen Maimonides: ‘Guide for the Perplexed’ (Moreh nevukhim), Barcelona 1347-48, Royal Library of Denmark.

Amulet in Hebrew square script
Shiviti / Amulet in Hebrew square script, place of origin unknown, date uncertain 1800-1899. The David Simonsen Manuscripts collection, Royal Library of Denmark.
Editor: Lena Stanley-Clamp, European Association for Jewish Culture, London
with contributions from Center for Jewish History, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research,
Leo Baeck College, The Royal Library of Denmark | Contact us | Subscribe to Judaica Europeana Newsletter
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