Judaica & Rosenbachiana

Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach formed a highly important collection of early American Judaica. He gave the bulk of this collection to the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) in 1931. Nonetheless, significant Judaica remain at the Rosenbach, including several Hebrew incunabula, the Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695 (the first with a map of the Exodus), and the first Hebrew grammar printed in the United States (1731). Correspondence in the Rosenbachiana collection documents family members’ participation in organizations ranging from Philadelphia’s Congregation Mikveh Israel to the AJHS and the American Friends of the Hebrew University. 

The Rosenbachiana collection encompasses books written by or owned by Philip and A.S.W. Rosenbach, a limited amount of family materials, including papers and photographs, and the archives of the Rosenbach Company, which the brothers ran from 1903-1953. The archives’ stock files, purchase and sales records, correspondence, and financial records, supplemented by a collection of 13,000 book auction and bookseller catalogs, are an important resource for tracing the formation and dispersal of many important collections, and for the study of the American antiquarian book trade in the 20th century.

Collection Highlights

A visit with Doctor R

Dawson was the first dealer of quality antiquarian books in Los Angeles and a friend and customer of Doctor Rosenbach. His tale of a visit to the Rosenbach Company’s Philadelphia shop and the Rosenbach home on DeLancey Place reveals some of Doctor R.’s sales techniques: a cultivated air of opulence;…

Materials Relating to the Pow-Wow Club

The Pow-Wow Club was a Philadelphia literary club founded by Dr. Rosenbach and several of his friends in 1893. The donated materials belonged to the donors' grandfather, who was also a member, and include program booklets for the club's anniversary dinners and ladies' nights, as well as the club's minute…

Monogrammed Lap Robe, Cigarette Box, and Promotional Pamphlet

Frank Carnevale Maffe was an Italian immigrant who served as the Rosenbachs’ chauffeur in New York from 1923 to 1938. One of his descendants recently contacted the Rosenbach to find out more about his work and to share her family knowledge with us. The Maffes also kindly donated several Rosenbach…

Portrait of Joseph Gratz

This portrait depicts a stately, elderly Joseph Gratz (1785-1858). Gratz's age and costume suggest that the painting was done around 1850. The artist, G.P.A. Healy was an extremely prolific portraitist, known for his images of famous men. Among Healy's American subjects were Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Millard Fillmore, John Tyler,…

Portrait of Rebecca Gratz

This elegant portrait of Rebecca Gratz (1781-1869) was painted by Thomas Sully in 1831, when Rebecca was 50. The painting descended through the family of Sara Gratz Moses, the daughter of Rachel Gratz and Solomon Moses. Rebecca Gratz had raised Sara and her siblings after Rachel died in childbirth when…

Service for the two first nights of Passover

The little information we have about this wine-stained Haggadah speaks of tragedy for the Rosenbach family. Hyman Polock Rosenbach, oldest of the seven Rosenbach children, inscribed it “First used by me April 19th 1886.” His father Morris had recently died and leading the Passover seder had become the responsibility of…

The Bologna Pentateuch, 1482

The first printed Hebrew Bible with vowels, commentary by Rashi, and Targum Onkelos. One of the great treasures of the Rosenbach’s Judaica collection, it was recently re-bound in period inspired, decorated leather covers and fully digitized for viewing at the Internet Archive thanks to support from the David Berg Foundation. It can…

Related Posts

At table with the Rosenbach brothers

Dealers and collectors in rare and lovely things, the founding brothers of the Rosenbach had a profound connection to their Jewish heritage—reflected particularly in the collecting and scholarly pursuits of the younger brother, Dr. Abraham Rosenbach. Dr. Rosenbach was president of the New York Jewish Historical Society from 1921 to 1948, and wrote a bibliography …

Bibliomanes and Biblioklepts

“I have known men to hazard their fortunes, go long journeys halfway about the world, forget friendships, even lie, cheat, and steal, all for the gain of a book.”–A.S.W. Rosenbach, Books and Bidders: The Adventures of a Bibliophile (1927) In January of this year, the book world was shocked by a daring theft from a rare …

Dr. Rosenbach and the songs of Robert Burns

This guest post is an excerpt of  “Dr. Rosenbach, Robert Burns, and The Interleaved Scots Musical Museum:  Song Collection and Bibliophilia” by Steve Newman, Associate Professor of literature at Temple University. It’s always exciting for us to read about the discoveries made by researchers! To make an appointment in our reading room, click here. Robert Burns devoted …

The Unpublishable Memoirs

Dr. Rosenbach became famous for selling the best books at the highest prices, but how does one amass a great collection when one doesn’t have the money to play the game? The clever but unscrupulous protagonist of Dr. R’s first book,The Unpublishable Memoirs, has a simple solution: clever cons and sly stealing. The Unpublishable Memoirs …

A Rosenbach Murder Mystery

Dr. Rosenbach’s book-dealing prowess not only earned him an extensive clientele, an amazing personal collection, and the chance to publish about his exploits, but his widespread fame also gave him a star turn as the victim in a 1930 murder mystery. The Yorkshire Moorland Mystery (a.k.a The Yorkshire Moorland Murder)  by J.S. Fletcher revolves around …