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Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana

Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana is part of the University of Amsterdam Library. One of the largest European collections of its kind, it has developed from a German Enlightenment library into a general library on Jewish history and culture.

Rosenthal Family 1844
The Rosenthal family on Leeser’s 50th birthday in 1844, Bibliotheca Rosentaliana.

The library’s founder, Leeser Rosenthal (Nasielsk, Poland 1794–Hanover 1868) spent the greater part of his life as an independent collector sustained by his wealthy family-in-law, studying the books they enabled him to acquire. By the end of his life, Leeser Rosenthal owned 32 Hebrew manuscripts and about 6,000 printed volumes including 12 Hebrew incunabula and many more rare books. Rosenthal’s heirs tried to sell the collection, commissioning the Dutch bibliographer Meijer Roest to compile a catalogue entitled Catalog der Hebraica und Judaica aus der L. Rosenthal’schen Bibliothek. All efforts to sell were in vain, however, and in 1880 Rosenthal’s son George, who had moved to Amsterdam and had become a banker, donated his father’s library to the City of Amsterdam. Until the First World War the Rosenthal family provided funds for the enlargement of the library, while after 1918 the University of Amsterdam took over financial responsibility.

Reading Room, Bibliotheca RosenthalianaThe reading room of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in the early 20th century.

Since then the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana collections have grown to 120,000 works in all languages used by the Jews in the course of the centuries. They include books, the earliest of which date from the 15th century, as well as manuscripts (from the 13th century), periodicals, engravings, photographs, liturgical music and archival materials.

Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana is investing considerably in the digitization of its collections. It hosts a large biographical database of Jews in the Netherlands in the 20th century, containing over 6,000 biographical entries. Online inventories of the archival collections are being published along with other invaluable resources such as the Treasures of Jewish Booklore. Digital collections to be published include the incoming correspondence of the charitable organization ‘Pekidim and Amarkalim’ of Amsterdam and Dutch-Jewish newspapers. A substantial section of the Hebrew manuscripts, including the small but important collection of medieval manuscripts, is being digitized in cooperation with the National Library of Israel. The Rosenthaliana will link its digital holdings to Europeana with the support of Judaica Europeana and the AthenaPlus projects.

Seder Haggadah shel Pesach by Joseph ben David of Leipnik
Seder Haggadah shel Pesach, written and illustrated by Joseph ben David of Leipnik, a Moravian scribe-artist, 1738, Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana.


Jechiel Michel ben Nathan of Lublin by Pieter van den Berge, 1699-1700
The portrait of Jechiel Michel ben Nathan of Lublin by Pieter van den Berge, engraving, 1699-1700. The Ashkenazi synagogue in Amsterdam can be seen in the background. Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana.


itinerary in Yiddish of a journey made by Abraham Levi ben Menahem
A manuscript, containing an itinerary in Yiddish of a journey made by Abraham Levi ben Menahem Tall through Central Europe and Italy between 1719-1724. Probably the only known description of a Jewish Grand Tour, it was copied by an Amsterdam scribe, Zevi Hirsh ben Abraham of Breslau, 1764, Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana.
Editor: Lena Stanley-Clamp, European Association for Jewish Culture, London
with contributions from National Library of Israel, Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, AthenaPlus project, JDC Archives |
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