Thursday, October 21, 2010

Question: I saw a reference to Ms. 16 at the Breslau Seminary in a Jewish Quarterly Review article published in 1891 (I. Abrahams "Jewish Ethical Wills" JQR vol. 3 no. 3, p. 483). Which seminary is this, and where can I find that manuscript today?

Answer: The seminary was the Juedisch-Theologosches Seminar in Breslau, the "first modern rabbinical seminary in Central Europe" according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

The Breslau ms 16 is currently at the Jewish National and University Library is Jerusalem, and is now known as JNUL ms 28° 2264.

The history of the Breslau Hebrew manuscript collection is in Benjamin Richler's invaluable Guide to Hebrew Manuscript Collections (Jerusalem, 1994), p 24. The core of the Breslau collection was formed by the gift of 69 manuscripts from Leon Saraval; other donations were from Bernhard Beer and Raphael Kirchheim. By World War II the collection held 405 Hebrew manuscripts. During the war the manuscripts were confiscated by the Nazis, and dispersed to multiple locales including a Gestapo cellar. Various research institutions now hold many of the manuscripts, and Richler has conveniently listed the current locations of approximately one half of the collection in Appendix V, p. 213.

Richler's Guide describes the histories, catalogs, and outstanding holdings of hundreds of collections, allowing researchers to trace the wanderings of the manuscripts and to match up older manuscript references with later catalogs, numbering systems and locations. Updates and corrections are available from the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts.

Richler's Guide is available at the Jewish Theological Seminary Library Reference Desk.

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