Reading the Readers

Lipstick kisses, wine stains, cigarette burns, and other glimpses of provenance

Most of the books at the Yiddish Book Center contain little pieces of evidence about their former owners. Sometimes there is only a name or a similarly small tidbit of information. Other times there are numerous clues left behind, which can show who the owners were and what their lives were like. Many books were gifted, revealing personal relationships and/or the occasion on which the book was received. In some cases, it is even possible to gauge a reader’s interaction with and impression of the book. Below are just a few examples of these pieces of evidence in their varying degrees of depth, starting with stamps, seals, and bookplates, which can help to reveal the name, place of residence, and even profession of the former book owners.

David Goodman Bookplate

This bookplate belonged to David Goodman from Philadelphia and can be found on the endpaper of Knut Hamsun's Pan: fun leytenant Thomas Glahn's papiren, translated by Avraham Frumkin and published in London in 1910.

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This bookplate belonged to Blanche and Abe Halpern and can be found in a volume of Sholem Asch's Gezamelte shriften (Collected Writings), published in New York in 1923.

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This bookplate belonged to Alfred Cahen and can be found in Meʼir Pisiuk's Bleter zikhroynes (Pages from My Memories), published in Warsaw in the 1920s.

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This bookplate belonged to Kalmon Marmor, and the artist is Yosl Cutler. The bookplate can be found on the endpaper of Edith Glasser-Andrews' In halb-shoten (In Half-Shadow), published in New York in 1922 (the book itself contains an illustration by Zuni Maud, Cutler's creative partner).

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This Yiddish and English bookplate belonged to A. Z. Berman, and the blue Russian and Polish label is from A. Kamen, a bookbinder in Warsaw. These bookplates can be found on the endpaper of Bolesław Prus's novel Pareh (Faraon), translated into Yiddish by Ezriel Nathan Frenk and published in Warsaw in 1909 or 1910. 

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Oscar Eberle

This bookplate can be found in Alexandre Westphal's Yeshuʻa fun Natsares (Jesus of Nazareth), translated into Yiddish by S. P. Tabaksblatt and published in Holland in 1935.

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Leivick

This bookplate belonged to Jean and Sam Leivick (the younger son of Yiddish writer H. Leivick) and can be found on the endpaper of H. Leivick's In di teg fun Iyov: dramatishe poeme in zibn bilder (In the Days of Job: Dramatic Poem in Seven Scenes), published in New York in 1953. This copy also has an inscription from the author, H. Leivick, to Jean and Sam "mit a sakh libe" (with much love).

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Molly Picon

This bookplate, "A Gift From the Library of Jacob Kalich and Molly Picon," the famous Yiddish actor, can be found on the endpaper of H. Golomb's Milim bilshoyne: Hebreyish-Idishes verter-bukh, fun Hebreyishe verter, oysdrike un toyre-verter, velkhe veren benutst in Idishen geshprekh un in ihr literatur, published in Vilnius in 1910.

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Samuel E. Judin

This stamp and the accompanying materials belonged to Samuel E. Judin of New York. They can be found in volumes 1-3 of Jules Verne's Gevehlte verk (Selected Works), published in New York circa 1922. Each of the three volumes contains multiple stamps, an envelope, a bookmark tied into the book's gatherings, multiple pasted newspaper clippings, and what appear to be photo mounting corners, although the photograph (or whatever was held there) has been removed...

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Cohen Shanghai

This stamp is from Meyer Moses Cohen of Shanghai and can be found in the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah mahzor Sefer zikaron tov, published in Hebrew in Baghdad in 1924 or 1925.

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Hirshfeld Poultry

These stamps are from R. Hirshfeld, a ritual slaughterer at the Queens County Live Poultry Market, and are dated July 21, 1935. They can be found in Tsevi Hirsh Fridling's Sefer hayim ha-nitshiʻyim, published in Biskupice, Poland (undated).

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Schorr Marriage Circumcision

This stamp in Hebrew and English, "Rev. Dr. A. Schorr Marriage Performer Circumcision Surgeon," can be found on the front cover verso of Phinehas Elijah Hurwitz's Seyfer ha-bris: erklert daytlikh ale velt visenshaften fun himl un erd un yamim oykh fun ale lebendige beshefinishen..., published in Warsaw in 1898 or 1899.

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Maymudes

This stamp with Yiddish belonged to A. Maymudes and can be found on the title page of Shmuel Niger's Di Yidishe literatur un di lezerin, published in Vilnius in 1919.

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Shmuel Niger

Hidden amongst stamps from YIVO, is an understated, Yiddish stamp "Sh. Niger," likely the stamp from Yiddish writer (and reader) Shmuel Niger. This stamp can be found on the title page of Jacob Dineson's Der krizis, a short story published in Warsaw in the 1920s. An identical stamp can also be found on the title page of Yehiel Yeshaia Trunk's Yidishe kultur-fragn un der sotsyalizm, published in Warsaw in 1935 (also a copy once held by YIVO).

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Saginur

This stamp belonged to N. Saginur, with the personal name in both Latin script and phonetic Chinese characters. This stamp can be found on the title page of Hersh Shishler's Ernster shpas (Serious Fun), published in Johannesburg (South Africa)‏ in 1959.

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Avin Capetown

This stamp belonged to Salman Avin of Capetown (South Africa) and can be found on the title page of Empress Alexandra's Briv: fun der letster Rusisher Kayzerin tsu ir man Nikolay II (Letters: From the Last Russian Empress to her Husband Nicholas II), translated into Yiddish by Sh. Fayn and published in Warsaw in 1923.

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Tabak

This Yiddish stamp is from the private library of the teacher Peyseh Tabak and can be found on the title page (along with a Yiddish inscription) of Der gelekhter: an ophandlung vegn der badeytung fun komizm, published in Warsaw and New York in 1928.

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Yakov Meir ...

This (rather lengthy) Hebrew/Yiddish personal name stamp can be found on the fly leaves and directly on the text of Toyzind und eyne nakht (Arabian Nights), published in Lublin in 1893.

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Address Space

While it is quite common for book owners to write their names and contact information on their books, this address is a bit more far reaching than most: "M. Baskin, 514 Boomfield St., Hoboken, N.J., U.S.A., North America, Earth, Solar System, Universe, Space." This name and address was written on the flyleaf of Jacob Dineson's Yosele, edited by Ya'akov Levin for school children and published in New York in 1923. 

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Digging a bit deeper, it is possible to find books that were inscribed by authors possibly at book signings, gifted by family or friends, donated in honor or memory of someone, or awarded to the owner(s) at an event or for an achievement. Quite a few books contain genealogical information, placed there either for the readers themselves or upon donation of the tome, so that the provenance would not be lost. Through these little clues, a multitude of personal connections unfold...

Menke Katz

This Yiddish inscription by the Yiddish author, Menke Katz, is very typical of Katz's inscription style, and there are quite a few others like it here at the Center. This particular inscription, dated 1948 and 1949, can be found on the title page of Menke Katz's Der posheter holem (The Simple Dream), published in New York in 1947.

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Kvitko Goldberg

Here the Soviet Yiddish writer, Leib Kvitko, inscribed a copy of his book Naye Lider (published in Moscow in 1939) to his "Tayern fraynt" (dear friend) the American Yiddish writer and journalist, Ben Zion Goldberg, who was married to Sholem Aleichem's daughter. The inscription was written in Moscow and dated February 25, 1946. Goldberg visited the Soviet Union from January to June of 1946, during which time he dispatched over 30 articles to newspapers in various countries, and he later wrote about this experience in books, including Sovetn Farband—faynt oder fraynt? (Soviet Union—Friend or Foe?), published in New York in 1947. 

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Tabatchnik Hamer-Jacklyn

This Yiddish inscription is from the Yiddish author, A. Tabachnik, "mit frayndshaft"  (with friendship) to another Yiddish author, "der talantfuler dertseylern" (the talented storyteller) Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn. The inscription can be found on the title page of A. Tabachnik's Dikhter un dikhtung, published in New York in 1965.

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Jablonower

This inscription is from one of the book's authors, Joseph Jablonower, to his mother and is dated May 24, 1916. The inscription can be found on the flyleaf of Israel Edwin Goldwasser and Joseph Jablonower's Yiddish-English lessons / English-Idishe oyfgaben, published in Boston, New York, and Chicago in 1916. The leaf after the inscription contains a penciled-in listing of corrections and page numbers in the same neat cursive as the author's inscription to his mother.

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Bailin

This Yiddish inscription and the pasted message in English can be found on the flyleaf of Sam Simchovitch's A shtifkind bay der vaysl, published in Toronto in 1992. The Yiddish inscription is from the author, Sam Simchovitch, to Jacob Bailin, whose daughter donated this book with the hope that "the reader of this book enjoys Yiddish literature as much as they [her parents] did." Here we have a message from the author to the reader and another message from the reader's daughter to future readers.

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Mosheh Birshteyn

This pasted Yiddish message shows that this book was donated in memory of the Yiddish author Mosheh Birshteyn (1884-1952). This message can be found on the leaf preceding the title page of the first volume of the second edition of Zalman Rejzen's Leksikon fun der Yidisher literatur, prese un filologye, published in Vilnius in 1926. Although Mosheh Birshteyn is not listed in this lexicon, he can be found in the first volume of the Leksikon fun der nayer Yidisher literatur, published in New York in 1956 (where his birth and death years are listed as 1885-1952).

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Yidn Eyrope

This pasted Yiddish message can actually be found in various books at the Center. The text is "a matone far di yidn in eyrope, nyu york 1946, yidisher arbeter komitet"  (a gift for the Jews in Europe, New York 1946, Jewish Labor Committee). The people reading this book therefore likely included European Jews who had lived through the Second World War. This particular message can be found on Jack London's Farshtraykt (The Apostate), translated into Yiddish and published in Vilnius in 1930.

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Birthday

This book was inscribed in Russian on July 16, 1930 in honor of a birthday. The inscription can be found on the title page of Samuel Leib Zitron's Ale verk (Shtadlonim), published in Warsaw in the 1920s.

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Ladies Garment

This inscription, from the "Ladies Garment Workers Union N. 95 of Detroit Mich. May 5th 1912," can be found on the second volume of the fifth edition of Ph. Krantz's Di kulturgeshikhte der mensh un zayn arbeyt (The Cultural History of Man and His Work), published in New York and copyrighted in 1903.

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Weis

These inscriptions and pasted notes containing genealogical and yahrzeit information can be found on the endpaper and flyleaf of the second part of Mahazor: ke-minhag Ashkenazim: u-vo nikhlelu tefilot shalosh regalim ve-hem Pesah Shavuʻot ve-Sukot..., published in Sulzbach (Germany) in 1767 or 1768. Other notes and inscriptions, as well as a pressed fern (photographed below), can be found throughout the mahzor (holiday prayerbook).

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Shavalenko

This pasted English message can be found on the endpaper of Alexander Harkavy's Harkavi's hand verterbukh der Englisher shprakh (Harkavy's Manual Dictionary of the English Language), published in New York and copyrighted in 1894.

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Helfgott Peru

This English stamp from the Helfgott family of Lima, Peru can be found on the title page of the journal Yungvald (issue number 1 of Yungvald, issues 7-8 of 1989, and issues 103-104 of the Sovetish Heymland supplement), published in Moscow in 1989.

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Best Student

This Yiddish inscription, "a gift" to the "best student from the third class," is from New York and dated June 14, 1930. It can be found in Mani Leib's Kinder-lider (Children's Poems), published in New York (undated).

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Pleasant Journey Mother

This inscription, "Pleasant Journey Mother," is short and sweet and can be found on the endpaper of Honoré de Balzac's novel Di tokhter fun kargn milioner (Eugenie Grandet), translated into Yiddish by Eliyahu Yaʻakov Goldshmidt and published in Vilnius in 1937. The inscription not only gives a feel for the mother-daughter relationship, but also shows that the book was probably read during a journey. We may not know the departure or arrival points of the journey, but now we have a notion that, at least mentally, this traveler was likely in 19th century France.

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Hershel Novak

This Yiddish inscription reveals that this book was a gift to the Yiddish author and educator, Hershel Novak, and his wife from his colleagues at the Montreal Radical National Schools, on the occasion of his wedding. The inscription is dated June 19, 1917 and can be found on the flyleaf of the first volume (Biografye, Alte mayse, Sefer habeheymes, Sefer hagilgulim) of Mendele Mokher Sefarim's Ale verk fun Mendele Moykher Sforim (Sh. Y. Abromovits), published in Krakow (Warsaw, Vilnius, and New York) in 1910 or 1911.

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Sol Mom

This brief Yiddish inscription is from "Sol" [full Hebrew name follows] "tsu mayn mame" (to my mom) and is dated 1944. This inscription can be found on the endpaper of the Yom Kipur volume of Mahazor kol bo: ʻim perush ʻIvri taytsh be-shem Bet Yisraʼel ve-yalkut Peninim yekarim u-Maʻaseh Alfes: nusah Ashkenaz, published in New York by Hebrew Publishing Company (undated). Also tucked inside this mahzor is a kippa (photographed below).

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Abramovitsh

This Yiddish inscription from 1940 Vilnius can be found on the title page of A. Błanksztejn's Noveles, published in Vilnius in 1939. The inscription was written by Anna Abramovitsh to the best and most consoling friend of the deceased author, who died just before her first book was published.

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Many books are donated to the Center with hidden treasures left inside. The book was perhaps used as portable storage to file documents and/or these scattered archives and ephemera were used as bookmarks. Regardless of intent or purpose, these books were clearly used by their former owners in one way or another. These fun little pieces of history can reveal a great deal about the book users, or possibly readers.

Jewish Holiday Cards

This Rosh Hashanah prayer book contains six New Year's cards (in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English), two pieces of mail requesting donations/reservations, two index cards with names/addresses, an empty envelope stamped 1966 and addressed to a Mr. and Mrs. Meltzer of Brooklyn, and a five-cent Jewish National Fund postal stamp for the year 5699 on the endpaper. All these items can be found in Mahazor kol bo: ʻim perush ʻIvri taytsh be-shem Bet Yisraʼel ve-yalkut Peninim yekarim u-Maʻaseh Alfes: nusah Sefarad: Rosh ha-Shanah, published in New York in 1924 or 1925. Whether this prayer book provided storage for these items and/or these items served as bookmarks, clearly this mahzor was put to good use.

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Greeting Cards

This prayer book contains six greeting cards, including two Valentine's Day cards ("with love Bobby" dated 1941, and the other "Dear granny, Sorry to hear that you are sick. I will come to see you very soon"), two Rosh Hashanah cards (in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English, with one dated 1943), and two Mother's Day cards (one copyrighted 1942). All these items can be found in Sidur Bet Yisraʼel ʻIvri-Taytsh, published in New York in 1922 or 1923. Not only was this wife, mother, and grandmother fond of her prayer book, but obviously she was much loved as well.

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New Orleans 1898 postcard

This one-cent postcard is stamped "New Orleans LA March 30 ... 1898." The English message on the verso simply reads "Will you please call Friday morning, as I would like to see you" with names, an address, and the place/date (same as stamp). This postcard was found in the third volume (Yeshaʻyah, Yirmiyah) of Kitve kodesh ʻesrim ve-arbaʻah (The Prophets in Hebrew and Yiddish), published in Warsaw between 1860-1861.

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Reading Pennsylvania 1921 postcard

This postcard verso is full of Yiddish text (so much, in fact, that it continues onto the front of the postcard) and is stamped "Reading Sep 16 1921 10 am PA." This postcard was found in Shakespeare's Yulyus Tsezar; Hamlet (Julius Caesar; Hamlet), translated into Yiddish by Israel Jacob Schwartz and published in New York in 1918.

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Antwerp Belgium postcard

This postcard verso is full of Yiddish script, some of the neatest I have ever encountered in Yiddish correspondence. The postcard recto is stamped Antwerp and addressed to Philadelphia, but the date is a bit difficult to make out. The King Albert I postage stamps suggest that it is from interwar Belgium. This postcard was also found in the same copy of Shakespeare's Yulyus Tsezar; Hamlet (Julius Caesar; Hamlet), translated into Yiddish by Israel Jacob Schwartz and published in New York in 1918.

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Russian Calendar October 12th 1919

This Russian calendar leaf is for Sunday, October 12, 1919 (or September 29, 1919 using the old calendar, as it states on the recto). The calendar recto lists the total number of days for the month (31), the full moon date (9), the sunrise and sunset times, the moonrise and moonset times, total length of daylight, and other practical information. The calendar verso has a quote of the day, a description of licorice (fact of the day?), a joke, and a menu (which includes a vegetarian option). This calendar leaf was found in Hersh David Nomberg's Shriftn, published in Kiev in 1919.

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August 1945 Calendar

This calendar is from August 1945, with the following English text on the verso: "The three meals of the Sabbath / To provide a Talmid Chacham with all the three meals of the Sabbath costs $1.00 / Provide for one or more students / The Almighty will consider this as if the Telmud Chacham would, this Sabbath, be at your table / To support a student a whole week costs $3.00." This same message is also provided in Yiddish on the verso. This calendar was found in Aleksei Ivanovich Lebedev's Tsum ayzin harts fun der arktik: rayzes tsum vaytn tsofn (To the Icy Heart of the Arctic: Travels to the Far North), translated into Yiddish by Itzik Kipnis and published in Kiev in 1936.

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DP Theater Program

This Yiddish (in Polish-style Romanization) theater program is for "Der Kenig Achaszwejrosz" by Goldfaden with text by Peretz Miransky, an operetta in 3 acts and 9 scenes, with a ballet, chorus, and music, and a total ensemble of 31 people. The program is from the "Dramkrajs Hanoded baym Unrra-Lager Bialik Berlin-Mariendorf." The UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) existed until 1947 to support and repatriate refugees in the aftermath of WWII. This program was found in Khorn zingen (Songs for Chorus), published in New York and copyrighted 1938-1941.

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Notice Call Physical Exam WWI

This "Notice of Call and to Appear for Physical Examination," as part of the WWI draft in the United States was mailed out July 29, 1917 for an August 3, 1917 appointment. This document was found in English-idishes entsiklopedishes verterbukh (English-Yiddish Encyclopedic Dictionary), published in New York in 1915. A "Certificate of Discharge Because Physically Deficient" was also found in this copy.

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Music Score

This handwritten, Romanized Yiddish music score entitled Gut yontev, was found in Mikhl Gelbart's Naye gezangen, published in New York and copyrighted 1961.

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Marron's Restaurant flyer

These bilingual jokes, or "daffynitions," are on the verso of a flyer from "Marron's Hebrew National Kosher Delicatessen–Restaurant" in Long Beach, New York. The flyer advertises "Party Catering for All Occasions," "If you go East... If you go West / Marron's is the Best / We deliver," and "Try Our Sloppy Joes." The flyer also features an image of a cow with labels including "pastrami," "salami," "tongue," and "trayf." This flyer was found in a copy of Herman Eager's Getrakht un gelakht, published in New York in 1944.

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With a bit of creativity, a book can serve many purposes other than reading material. Naturally, books can be used to press flowers. A Yiddish book can also be a doodle pad, which is, not surprisingly, most commonly practiced with school texts. Yiddish books often have blank end papers and fly leaves, which have tempted many former book owners to put them to use as canvases for art sketches or scrap paper for arithmetic or calligraphy practice. A dictionary, below, also apparently functioned as its former owner's address book, with handwritten names and numbers stretching across many leaves at the front and back of the volume. Someone else pasted lists of baby names for boys and girls onto the endpapers and flyleaves of another volume. A book can also serve as a coaster, which can be convenient when small nightstands are coupled with large tomes.

Pressed flower

This pressed flower can be found in Alexander Harkavy's Folshtendiges english-yudishes verterbukh (Complete English-Jewish Dictionary), published in New York and copyrighted in 1891, with numerous editions into the 1910s (this copy lacks a title page).

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Pressed fern

This pressed fern can be found in the second part of Mahazor: ke-minhag Ashkenazim: u-vo nikhlelu tefilot shalosh regalim ve-hem pesah shavuʻot ve-sukot..., published in Sulzbach (Germany) in 1767 or 1768.

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Baby Names

Pasted lists of baby names for both girls and boys can be found on multiple leaves in the front and back of this leather rebound copy of Harkavi's hand verterbukh der englisher shprakhe (Harkavy's Manual Dictionary of the English Language), published in New York and copyrighted in 1894 with various later editions.

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Address book

This improvised address book can be found in the Idish verterbukh (Yiddish Dictionary: Containing All the Hebrew and Chaldaic Elements of the Yiddish Language, Illustrated with Proverbs and Idiomatic Expressions) compiled by Dr. C. D. Spivak and Sol. Bloomgarden (Yehoash), published in New York and copyrighted 1911. The address book is stretched out over nearly 11 full pages of the frontmatter and 7 pages of text (where the contacts are written in the blank borders), as well as the endpaper and flyleaf at the end of the book. This well-worn dictionary was clearly consulted repeatedly for multiple reasons!

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Woman's Portrait

This lovely portrait of a woman can be found on the front cover verso of Sholem Aleichem's Der farkishefter shnayder, published in Moscow in 1947 with illustrations by the artist Meir Axelrod. The portrait is dated December 29, 1947 and was penciled in so deeply that it is possible to see and feel the portrait on both sides of the front cover.

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Doodle treasure hunt

These doodles actually extend throughout the book, Abraham Reisen's Geklibene dertseylungen, published in New York in 1947 and edited by Yudel Mark in this school edition for Reisen's 70-year jubilee. On page six of this copy is the message "for a surprise turn to pg. 19," and on page 19 is the message "It's a big surprise turn to pg. 26." This doodled treasure hunt that leads nowhere but back and forth within this volume continues for another 11 scattered pages, which includes an intermission and the message photographed above. Additionally, there are wordless doodles, such as games (dots and boxes) and sketches of airplanes. There are also a few scribbled English definitions of printed Yiddish words, which provide evidence of this book being read, at least by someone, if not the doodler.

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Doodle hand

This doodle can be found on the endpaper of Jacob Dineson's Yosele, edited by Ya'akov Levin for school children and published in New York in 1923. What is dangerous here is unclear, but perhaps the doodle dates from 1926?

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Lipstick Kisses

These lipstick kiss marks can be found on the flyleaf of the second volume of the second edition of Hyman Bass and S. Yefroikin's Mayn shprakhbukh: leyen- un arbet-bukh far Yidish, published in New York in 1946. Underneath the kisses are the words "Miss... Miss S." While in some cases lipstick kisses might reveal a reader's delight in a book, these eight kisses, aligned atop one another in two columns, seem to suggest classroom boredom with hints of schoolgirl crushes rather than any actual interest in the book's content...

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Yiddish

Scrap paper was used as the book's endpapers and flyleaves when these eight calendars were bound together (Lueh: mit minhage bet ha-keneset: af ʹivri taytsh, published in Lublin and Warsaw between 1908 and 1915). The scrap paper seems to be from a Polish catalog for cigarettes and tobacco from "A. N. Szaposznikow w S. Petersburgu." Whether the handwritten Yiddish notes were added before or after the volume was bound is unclear.

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Multilingual handwriting

This multilingual, multicolored handwritten text can be found on the endpapers and flyleaves (front and back) of Yitshak Yehiʼel Inditski's Sefer ha-mehanekh, published in Warsaw in 1901.

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Finance Minister

Here a book owner practiced Russian calligraphy, writing “his highness… the minister of finance.” This can be found in Rekhnen und bukhfihrung bound with Di eynfakhe bukhfihrung, two works on bookkeeping, accounting, and mathematics, published in Chernyshevskoye, Russia 1872 and Vilnius, Lithuania 1873, respectively. Elsewhere there is an inscription in the same handwriting, dated 1892, and arithmetic calculations.

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Russian handwriting and arithmetic

Handwritten Russian cursive and arithmetic calculations can be found on the endpapers and flyleaf of Yoʾel-Berish Falkovitsh's Rohele di zingerin: eyn theater in 4 akten, published in Zhitomir (Ukraine) in 1868.

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Arithmetic

Arithmetic calculations can be found on the flyleaf of M. Kroyn's Haykil der lets: oder der behrimter vitsling, published in New York in 1901. Handwritten Russian cursive is also on the endpaper.

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Coaster

This book appears to have served as a coaster! It is part five of Di ungliklikhe Amalye: a zehr interesanter historisher roman, translated from German by Z. L. Korngold and published in New York in 1896. Although used as a coaster, the unlucky Amalye, a rare book, made it here in otherwise decent condition.

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But was the owner necessarily the reader? While the little hints and clues from books, described above, might reveal interesting details about the lives of their owners, it can be difficult to ascertain whether these owners actually read their books. The Center is sometimes donated suspiciously pristine copies, either newer books still in their original wrapping or older books with uncut pages. But those are by far the minority. Most books here proudly bear signs of wear and tear, which can be considered damage to some eyes and signs of love to others'. Books that were meant to be used for reference, instruction, or devotional purposes tend to be especially well worn, because they were not just read once from cover to cover, but were consulted or read repeatedly. These include dictionaries, school texts, immigration handbooks, cookbooks, prayerbooks, hagodes, etc. In addition to wear and tear, there are also some books that shed light on the reader's experience or impression of reading through marginalia and other evidence left behind.

Sforim Hearts

Here are a few examples of sforim (religious books) with hearts on their covers, which was apparently a bit of a trend at one point in time. Sforim, especially some of the older tomes, tend to be well worn when they reach the Center. I take these hearts to be yet another sign of love between the readers and their books.

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Ma'aneh Lashn

This copy of Maʻaneh lashon, published in Hebrew and Yiddish in Vienna in 1930, has a handwritten, partial table of contents translated into English on its endpaper and flyleaf. This shows that not only was the prayer book used for intended purposes, but it reveals which prayers specifically were frequently recited by the reader.

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Yortsayt

Here, the reader followed the book's instructions and filled in their parents' names in Hebrew for the purposes of yahrzeit. This can be found in Tsevi Hirsh Fridling's Sefer hayim ha-nitshiʻyim, a book about Jewish mourning laws and customs, published in Biskupice, Poland (undated).

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Dictionaries tend to be some of the most well-worn books at the Center. Many copies have arrived in rather bad condition, quite a few entirely missing their covers and even some pages. Others have torn and/or dogeared pages, as well as possibly handwritten notes beside certain definitions. But this is all proof of their utility. This lovely copy of Harkavi's hand verterbukh der englisher shprakh, first published in New York in 1894, however, is both in good condition and shows signs of being read. This book's owner carefully demarcated each letter, for ease of use, while rebinding the book to last. 

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Mindel First Papers

This note was found in Michael Kley's Vi azoy aroystsunehmen eyere ershte peypers (How to Take Out Your First Papers), published in New York and copyrighted 1921. The name "Mrs. Mindel" of Connecticut was penciled into the book itself, and the accompanying note from the book's donor, Marion Solomon Mindel, specifies that "this was the booklet that Celia Chipkin Mindel used to prepare for becoming a U.S. citizen in the early 1920s...," after which she raised her family of five children and lived out her life on a farm in Connecticut. 

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Hagode Stains

These stains can be found on the hagode pages, which include the prayer for wine (for the third glass). The hagode is Seder Hagadah shel pesah, published in Hebrew and Yiddish in New York and Vilnius in 1908. Many other hagodes at the Center bear similar stains.

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Hagode Names

These names, written in the margins in English and Yiddish on this Yiddish-language hagode, seem to designate who will read or sing what sections. They can be found throughout the hagode, sometimes with names crossed out and new names written in, and other times without a name and with a big 'X' instead, apparently signifying what passages would be skipped. The hagode is A naye hagodeh shel peyseh, published in New York in 1967.

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Vegetarishe kokh bukh

Similar to hagodes, cookbooks tend to show many signs of wear and tear, along with stains of all sorts. Some have handwritten notes with modifications to printed recipes. This particular cookbook, A. B. Mishulow and Mrs. Shifrah Y. Mishulow's Vegetarishe kokh bukh, published in New York in 1926, also has newspaper clippings pasted at the end of the book, with additional recipes. 

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Burn

This burn, a rather unusual form of wear and tear, can be found on Theodor Herzl's Der Idenshtat, published in New York (undated). The burn created holes through the front cover and four interior leaves, and stained a couple leaves beyond that. Perhaps the former owner of this book was smoking while reading and a stray ember landed on the cover? Or maybe this book was not to the liking of the reader and it was intentional...?

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If Thou Art Borrowed ...

This little poem was pasted onto the endpaper of Hananias Berliner's Ha-podeh u-matsil: a beshraybung fun dem leben, di maysim un di toyres fun Yeyshua ha-meshieh, published in Poznan (Poland) in 1897. The poem on pink paper was also stamped in purple ink with the name "Dan B. Bravin." While this poem might not prove readership, it shows that this book was highly valued by the book owner.

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If this book is lost ...

These inscriptions in Yiddish and English request that "if this book is lost, will the finder kindly return it?" and on the facing page the addresses of Naomi and Leon Gropman can be found. These inscriptions were written on the flyleaf and endpaper of Jacob Dineson's Yosele, edited by Ya'akov Levin for school children and published in New York in 1923. Whether or not these students read the book from cover to cover, it was clearly a valuable possession to them.

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Yosele Nar

Contrary to the previous slide, the two little words of this Yiddish inscription, "der nar" (the fool), written after the title Yosele, shows that this student was not terribly thrilled with the main character or the reading assignment in general. The inscription can be found on the title page of Jacob Dineson's Yosele, edited by Ya'akov Levin for school children and published in New York in 1933.

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This note, pasted onto the front cover, includes a translation of the title and a brief description, including the phrase "In memoriam." This note can be found on a copy of the number 7, May 1948 issue of Fun letstn hurbn, a periodical published in Munich starting in 1946 on the history of Jewish people during the Nazi regime. 

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Bukh Guter

Marginalia in Yiddish, German, and Russian can be found in this copy of Daniel Defoe's Robinzohn, published in Vilnius in 1894. In Yiddish, the text reads "Der bukh is a guter" (This book is good). The writer's name is "Elias," and the multilingual notes are dated 1912 and from Tauragė (Lithuania)‏.

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They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Here are a few images of readers from Yiddish books, which include men and women, the young and old, an angel and a cosmic man, and a dog and a cat.

Yunge Vegen

This illustration can be found on the cover of Shemuʼel Glazerman's Yunge vegen (Young Ways), published in Buenos Aires in 1922.

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Der gold-durshtiker keyser

This illustration can be found at the end of Daniel Charney's Der gold-durshtiker keyser, published in Moscow and undated. The illustration is actually part of an advertisement for another book, Moshe Broderzon's Temerl: a bobe-mayseleh, published in Moscow in 1917 and illustrated by Y. (Yosef) Tshaykov.

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Literatur visenshaft

This cover art is from A. B. Rozenshteyn's Literatur visenshaft, published in Warsaw in 1908.

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Leyenbukh

This cover art comes from Rafael Palewski's Leyenbukh : farn III klas, published in Warsaw in 1957.

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Mayn Yidish bukh

This cover art can be found on Isaiah Spiegel's Mayn yidish bukh : farn 4-tn klas, published in Warsaw and Lodz in 1948.

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Vaksn mayne kinderlekh : muter un kinder-lider

This illustration can be found on page 176 of Ida Massey's Vaksn mayne kinderlekh: muter un kinder-lider, published in Montreal in 1954.

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Geto-motivn

This illustration can be found in Abraham Walkowitz's Geto-motivn, published in New York in 1946.

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Shtendik zayn zol di Mame

This illustration can be found on page 12 of Shtendik zayn zol di mame!: zamlung fun kindershe gemeln, published in Moscow in 1986.

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Pirke Aboth

This cover art can be found on this trilingual Pirke aboth, with etchings by Saul Raskin, Yiddish translation by Yehoash, and English translation by Dr. B. Halper, published in New York in 1940, with a new edition published in 1969.

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Yidish ilustrirter alef-bes

This illustration can be found on page 17 of R. (Raphael) Gutman's Yidish: ilustrirter alef-bes, published in New York in 1926.

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Der Litvisher ingel

This illustration can be found on the leaf between pages 98-99 of Yisraʼel Iser Katsovitsh's Der litvisher ingel, published in New York in 1929.

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Foygl Kanarik

This cover art can be found on M. Shifris' Foygl kanarik, published in New York in 1950.

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Undzere farpaynikte kinstler

This illustration can be found on page 76 of Hersh Fenster's Undzere farpaynikte kinstler, published in Paris in 1951. This artist of this work is Frania Hart (1896-1943).

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Mit freyd un gezang

This illustration can be found on page 31 of Saul Maltz's Mit freyd un gezang, published in New York in 1972.

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This illustration can be found on page 134 of Hersh Fenster's Undzere farpaynikte kinstler, published in Paris in 1951. This artist of this work is Ephraim Mandelbaum (1884-1942).

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Niggun

This illustration is from Isaac Lichtenstein's Niggun, published in New York in 1945.

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Di mame vokh mit di ziben teg

This illustration can be found on the cover of M. Shifris' Di mame vokh mit di ziben teg, published in New York in 1941.

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Miryaml

This illustration can be found on page 151 of Tea Arciszewska's Miryaml: dramatisher tsikl in fuftsn bilder, published in London, Canada in 1958.

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Fun'm untergegangenem amol

This cover art can be found on Hayim Yisraʼel Perl's Fun'm untergegangenem amol, illustrated by B. Malhi and published in Montreal in 1946 or 1947.

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Mayn alef-beys

This illustration can be found in Y. (Yehoshua) Kaminski's Mayn alef-beys, published in New York in 1945 and illustrated by Nota Koslowsky.

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Dortn vu es nekhtikn di shtern

This illustration can be found in Abraham Sutzkever's Dortn vu es nekhtikn di shtern, published in Tel Aviv in 1979 and illustrated by Yonia Fain.

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This illustration can be found on page 21 of Eda Glasser's In feld, published in New York in 1929.

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Likhtike minutn

This illustration can be found on page 156 of Nochum Yood's Likhtike minutn, published in New York in 1932.

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Fun mayn gortn lider

This illustration can be found on page 24 of Mosheh Weinstein's Fun mayn gortn lider, published in Chicago in 1940.

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Ershte trit

This illustration can be found on page 68 of Haim Grant's Ershte trit : a lernbukh far onfanger, published in New York in 1934.

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Kindheyt fun a groysen menshen

This cover art can be found on David Kasel's Di kindheyt fun a groysen menshen, published in Warsaw and undated.

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Dray hsidishe dertseylungen

This illustration can be found in Isaac Leib Peretz' Dray hsidishe dertseylungen, published in Buenos Aires in 1949 and illustrated by Mosheh Feigenblum.

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It is also possible to read in Yiddish about reading in Yiddish. There exist Yiddish books about Yiddish readership and excerpts from memoirs and fiction that describe the reading experience. Additional perspectives on readership can be found in the Center’s other collections. The Wexler Oral History Project has many interview clips on the topic of reading and readership. Jack Lewin talks about how reading helped him forget hunger in the ghetto, and Dolph Klainberg tells of his father reading Sholem Aleichem to keep everyone laughing during the boat ride from Buenos Aires to New Orleans in 1947. Israel Milkow describes reading Yiddish secular literature in Yeshiva, for which he received "a patsh aher un a patsh ahin" (a slap from here and a slap from there), and Eugene Orenstein explains how reading one book led his father to lose his religious faith while studying at Yeshiva. David Fishman discusses Chaim Grade's relationship to his multilingual private library and how Grade would move books from one place to another and flip through their pages to maintain "living" contact with his library. Becky Rubinstein reminisces about how her father, a linotypist, would read Yiddish literature with ink-stained fingers and how she still has Yiddish books with his inky fingerprints. Bella Bryks-Klein, Yiddish speaker and daughter of writer Rachmil Bryks, remembers how she enjoyed having her father read Kaminsky's Mayn alef-beys to her, and she recites some of the rhymes from this booklet below:

Learning to Read Yiddish with Poems with my Father, Yiddish Writer Rachmil Bryks

I will conclude with an anecdote about a call that was transferred to me at the Center. It was the grandson of the Yiddish author Sarah Hamer-Jacklin inquiring about his grandmother’s books. Although I had never met the caller or his grandmother, nonetheless, I told him, “I think my grandfather was your grandmother’s doctor.” My grandfather was a doctor and also a native speaker of Yiddish. While I only possess a few of his Yiddish books, I knew for a fact that one of them was a book of short stories by Sarah Hamer-Jacklin, with the author’s inscription to my grandfather, “a gutn doktor” (“a good doctor”). Just as books create bridges between writers and readers through time and space, these little glimpses of provenance can also connect strangers in unexpected ways…