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Jacob M. Lowy Collection

Bible; Rabbinic literature; Hebrew literature, Ancient; Hebrew literature, Medieval; Hebrew literature, Pre-modern; Jewish liturgy; Incunabula; Manuscripts, Hebrew; Bibliography, Hebraic

The collection was established in 1977. It was assembled by Mr. Jacob M. Lowy, a private collector of Austro-Hungarian (Slovakian) origin. The collection was built in Europe, mostly in England, during and after World War II. At the time of its acquisition by the National Library in 1977, the Jacob M. Lowy Collection was considered one of the three foremost private collections of rare Hebraica and Judaica in the western hemisphere. It is now the most important collection of rare Hebrew printed books in a public institution in Canada. The Jacob M. Lowy Collection is one of several Hebraica and Judaica collections held at the National Library of Canada. Also held in the Lowy Room is the Saul Hayes Collection of original oriental Hebraic manuscripts; and microforms of Hebraic manuscript held in East European repositories.

The collection consists of rare Hebraica and Judaica, both religious and secular items, dating from the mid fifteenth to the mid twentieth centuries. The 34 incunabula in Hebrew and Latin include the first edition of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (1475); the first scientific work printed in Hebrew (1492); and several rare Hebrew imprints from Spain and Portugal printed before the expulsion of the Jews. Among the forty editions of Josephus is the Editio princeps (1470), the oldest printed book in the National Library. Included among the several hundred volumes of sixteenth century Hebrew imprints is a rare set of the first edition of the Babylonian Talmud (1519-1523) and numerous works edited or published by the Renaissance Christian Humanists. Although the collection largely comprises European Hebrew imprints, it also includes early editions from Ottoman Turkey (especially Constantinople) and representative editions from throughout the Orient and North Africa. Among the various editions of the Bible, in Hebrew and European languages, are found the first edition of the King James Version (1611-1613), and Walton's London Polyglot with texts in nine languages (1654-1657). Gaps in the collection are been filled occasionally. Fine facsimile editions of illuminated manuscripts and early printed books have been purchased selectively. The large accompanying reference collection comprises works in Hebraic-Judaic bibliography, Hebraic printing history, and reference literature in Jewish Studies.

Hebrew (ancient and medieval) predominates. There is some material in Aramaic, Ladino (Judeo Spanish), Yiddish, and Judeo Arabic. Editions of the Bible and Josephus are held in many European and native American languages. The reference collection contains works in Latin, German, Italian, French, English and Hebrew.

4 000 monographs; 10 serials; 500 reels of microfilm and hundreds of fiches; approximately 12 original manuscripts (one fully illuminated), in addition to the 180 manuscripts of the Saul Hayes Collection.

Bibliographic Access
A card file, by Hebrew title, lists the rare Hebraica held in the Jacob M. Lowy Room. Separate checklists (in romanization) are also available. Latin-character imprints and the reference collection have been catalogued on AMICUS (the library's automated bibliographic system). A published short-title list of Hebrew and Latin incunabula (held in the collection as of 1981) is available (see below).

Physical Access
The Collection is located in the Jacob M. Lowy Room on the 2nd floor of the National Library. An appointment with the Curator for visits between Monday and Friday, 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m, is recommended. Tel: (613) 995-7960

Interlibrary Loan: No.

Reprography: As the condition of the material warrants.

Reference Assistance: Yes.

Publications Describing Collection
Incunabula, Hebraica & Judaica: five centuries of Hebraica and Judaica, rare Bibles, and Hebrew incunables from the Jacob M. Lowy Collection: exhibition catalogue = Incunabula, Hebraica & Judaica : cinq siècles de livres hébraïques et judaïques, de bibles rares et d'incunables hébreux de la Collection Jacob M. Lowy : exposition :catalogue. -- Prepared by Brad Sabin Hill. -- Ottawa : National Library of Canada, 1981. Incunabula, Hebraica & Judaica exhibition catalogue on the web: Hill, Brad Sabin. -- "Hebraica and Judaica Collections at the NLC". -- Jewish book annual. -- No. 44 (1986-1987). -- New York : Jewish Book Council of the National Jewish Welfare Board [...], 1987.