Monday, October 04, 2004

Henry VIII's Talmud?

The Jewish Week is running an article about a display at Sotheby's in London of rare manuscripts and Hebrew books from the Valmadonna trust Library - the stunning collection of Jack Lunzer. The 'jewel in the crown' is the Bomberg Talmud which may be the copy ordered by Henry VIII (1491-1547) to bolster his case against the Church of England to allow him to divorce his wives. Alas, the story of how Jack Lunzer acquired it is tremendous, but too long to relate here in full. ( Miriam, feisty proprietress of this blog, warned me sternly against making my blogs too long ...) In short, Jack first saw a volume of this on display (but mis-attributed) in Westminster Abbey in 1956 in an exhibition celebrating 300 years of Jewish resettlement in England, and spent close to 25 years courting the Abbey in attempts to acquire it. Eventually, he managed to purchase a 900-year old copy of the Abbey's original Charter, being sold by an impecunious British aristocrat, and presented it to the Abbey. In return, the Abbey made him a gift of the Bomberg Talmud - whose pages were still uncut! The initials 'HR' (Henry Rex? or someone else?) were embossed in the binding.

In an interview elsewhere, Mr. Lunzer expresses the hope that the Library will remain in the UK, but alludes to the interest of the American LIbrary of Congress in the collection. (The website of the Library of Congress announced in 2001 that it had raised USD$9m to purchase the library. What happened?) . He also refers - correctly - to the disgraceful record of Anglo-Jewry in preserving its treasures.

3 comments:

Harvey said...

I'd like to know more about Lunzer's campaign to get hold of the Talmud Paul. I'm working on the great 17th century English lawyer and Hebraic scholar John Selden. Selden was imprisoned in the Tower at one point and in 1629 he wrote to his friend Sir Robert Cotton asking if Cotton could borrow the volumes on his behalf. I'd like to see these volumes but I note the Sotheby's exhibition ended on Oct 4th...a great shame.

Daniel the Bold said...

Henry ordered a copy of a 16th century Babylonian Talmud from Daniel Bomberg, a leading Jewish printer of the time.Daniel Bomberg was not Jewish.

thanbo said...

I thought the Bodleian had Henry VIII's copy of the Bomberg talmud.