Israel library makes famed Günzburg Collection accessible to the world

The National Library of Israel has added the Günzburg Collection, which includes some of the most important Hebrew manuscripts and books in the world, to its new digitized platform.  

By: World Israel News Staff

An historic agreement was signed in Jerusalem on Tuesday between the National Library of Israel (NLI), the Russian State Library in Moscow and the Moscow-based Peri Foundation, which will enable the public to access the Günzburg Collection, which contains some of the most important Hebrew manuscripts and books in the world.

Through the support of the Peri Foundation, 2,000 manuscripts and thousands of books in the collection will be digitized, making these significant works accessible online. The originals will remain in Russia.

The Günzburg Collection was started in the 19th century by Joseph Günzburg and continued by his son Horace. The family manuscript collection grew significantly towards the end of the century when Joseph’s grandson, Baron David Günzburg, acquired over half of the manuscripts in the current collection.

The manuscripts include a mosaic of topics and spheres of interest, including biblical texts and commentaries, works on Jewish law and the Talmud, prayer books and Kabbalah, as well as volumes of philosophy and texts on astronomy, medicine and magic.

‘A Significant Milestone’

“The addition of the digitized Günzburg Collection marks a significant milestone in the renewal process of the National Library of Israel, the home of greatest collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world, and advances its key aim to preserve the national memory of the Jewish people,” the NLI stated.

Images of the ancient Hebrew manuscripts will be integrated with NLI’s new and comprehensive digital platform: Ktiv, which will eventually include images of all known Hebrew manuscripts.

The archive contains nearly 4.5 million images from 45,000 manuscripts — slightly more than half of all known volumes. They include prayer books, biblical texts and commentary, philosophy, literature and scientific writings in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Arabic and more.

Adapting to the 21st Century

The NLI is currently undergoing an extensive process of regeneration, aiming to develop and adapt the institution to the 21st century.

Lord Jacob Rothschild, supporter of the NLI, said that “for many decades now the National Library has lived in hope of having access to the great Günzberg Collection in Russia. Thanks to the imaginative generosity of  Ziyavudin Magomedov and the Peri Foundation and with the support of the Russian State Library, this will at last happen.”

“This is of particular sentimental importance to me as I happen to be an Executor of the estate of Isaiah Berlin’s widow, born Aline Günzberg, a direct descendant of the Günzberg family,” Rothschild noted.

Ziyavudin Magomedov, founder of the Peri Foundation, said he personally considers this “a project of the utmost importance.”

“New technology has the potential to assist in comprehending one’s identity, history and culture, change approaches to education, and give access to the exploration of historical heritage. Humanitarian collaboration is extremely important for a balanced world,” Magomedov said.