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Every copy of Every Book Has a Story:
Price Library of Judaica re-dedication speech in honor of Jack & Samuel Price
Rebecca Jefferson, March 6, 2011
Every copy of every book has a story. Starting with the first edition, there is the story of the
creation of the book and the story of its creator, the story of the publisher, the printer or scribe,
the binder, the vendor and the reader. Then the second edition and the story of why a second
version was created: who commissioned it, who recreated it, who coveted it and who cherished
And the subsequent editions, reprints and revisions, and the story of who edited them, changed
them, illustrated them, made a facsimile; who bought them, who owned them, who borrowed
them, loaned them, lost them, stole them, who found them and who rescued them. Every copy of
every book has a story.
Thanks to the University of Florida and the generosity of Jack and Samuel Price, the Isser and
Rae Price Library of Judaica has more than 90,000 such stories on its shelves.
Today we stand next to a library with a proud history of collecting and preserving all of these
Jewish stories, including a good number of stories that would have otherwise been lost, and we
pledge that the Price Library of tomorrow will continue that tradition.
Today we rededicate this library. Tomorrow we renew our commitment to its patrons here at the
Center for Jewish Studies, in the wider University, and around the nation, to preserve and
develop the collecting strengths of the current collection.
Tomorrow we offer a new commitment to become a center of excellence for Jewish life and
culture in the Americas, with a strong focus on southern Jewry, Florida Jewry and the Jews of
Tomorrow we will begin to seek out those materials that will fulfill our new commitment,
starting with an effort to acquire resources like the Forverts newspaper microfilm: a massive
archive chronicling the heart of Jewish America.
Tomorrow we will send out the message that this library is a great library. We will harness the
power of the digital age and bring the library's scarce and special holdings to the wider world.
We will begin by digitizing the Library's anniversary editions of world Jewish newspapers and
we will expand to include our other scarce and important serials.
But today we will rededicate this library by bringing a new story to its shelves. This is the story
of one of the world's most beautiful Hebrew manuscripts, the Rothschild Miscellany.
The Rothschild Miscellany was commissioned by Moses ben Yekutiel Hacohen in the 15th
century at the height of the Italian Renaissance. This manuscript is the most lavishly executed
Hebrew manuscript of that era. It consists of over 70 religious and secular works as well as a
wealth of material illustrating daily life in a Jewish Renaissance household, leading to its
description as a library within a book. Over 800 of its 948 pages are decorated in meticulous
detail and illuminated with lavish reds, blues, silver and gold.
The Miscellany's precise history is unknown. In the mid 19th century, it formed part of the
Solomon de Parente collection in Trieste. The manuscript was later sold to the Rothschild family
in Paris where it remained until it was stolen during the Nazi occupation. After the war, it
reappeared in New York when a dealer tried to sell it to the librarian of the Jewish Theological
Seminary. The librarian determined that it was the missing Rothschild Miscellany and returned it
to the family. In 1957, the Miscellany was given to the Bezalel Museum in Israel after its
director persuaded the Rothschilds of its national importance. Today the original manuscript can
be viewed in the Israel Museum.
The book that I have before me is a facsimile of the Passover Haggadah which is part of the
Rothschild Miscellany. Its story is equally fascinating.
It is the story of a couple from London, Michael and Linda Falter, who love Hebrew manuscripts
so much that they want to provide copies of these rare objects that can be widely consulted and
appreciated without further damage to the original. Together they created a company called
Facsimile Editions (http://www.facsimile-editions.com/en/). Their first facsimile was the
Kennicott Bible held in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. This manuscript is so fragile and so
immensely valuable that relatively few art historians and scholars have ever been allowed to
Together the Falters pioneered a method of reproducing the parchment using the finest paper
from Italy and of employing the best Italian printers, gilders and binders to copy the manuscript.
This professional approach combined with the Falters' own incredible attention to detail meant
that this facsimile, painstakingly and lovingly produced over five and a half years, won
international acclaim and was declared the most faithful copy ever produced. Their second
project, to which they applied the same dedication and for which they employed the finest
Milanese artisans, was the Rothschild Miscellany. This facsimile has achieved equal widespread
The Haggadah that you see before you is an offshoot of that project. An important section of the
Miscellany and described as 'the most sumptuous of all the illuminated Haggadot', the Falters
felt that it deserved its own separate edition. The separate edition is also accompanied by a
superb translation of the texts and poems by the renowned scholar and translator Professor
Raphael Loewe, at whose feet it was once my own special privilege to sit. It is a limited edition
of 400 numbered copies.
And now as we add our own beautiful copy of this work to the already wonderful collection of
Passover Haggadot at the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica, we give it a new story. For this
is the story of an edition with a page handwritten by the Falter's calligrapher dedicating our copy
to Jack and Samuel Price and thanking them for their incredible and enduring support over the
last 30 years. This copy carries with it then the story of the Price Library's extraordinary past, the
story of its marvelous re-dedication on the sixth day of March in the year 2011, and the story of
its great future and continued promise.