From a Nazi-looted book to an "intimate" club: What we can learn from stamps and catalog cards
Countless books donated to the Yiddish Book Center have passed through libraries and related organizations. While many of the libraries that once held Yiddish books no longer exist or they no longer maintain collections of Yiddish books, these places where the Center’s books once lived are documented in the books themselves. Below are various ways to explore these libraries, starting with book covers. Nearly any given shelf at the Center contains a variety of library spine labels, other library spine markings, and/or easily identifiable retro library covers.
Various library spine labels and markings.
These library books all have images of nature pasted onto their back covers. They come from the Minneapolis Public Library Branch K (Sumner Branch). According to the minneapolismn.gov website: "The Sumner Library neighborhood branch played a crucial role in the accommodation of new immigrant populations in the early part of the twentieth century. Located on Olson Memorial Parkway, the Sumner Branch was especially helpful to the large influx of Jewish immigrants on the near north side of Minneapolis. A survey conducted during the early years of operation revealed that approximately 95 percent of library card holders were Jewish. As a result, the city’s entire Yiddish and Hebrew collections were placed at Sumner."
This retro library cover is from the New York Public Library. The book is L. Handelman's Problemen un shtrikhn fun gaystigen kharakter, published in New York in 1943.
This retro library cover is from the Brooklyn Public Library. The book is J. Kahan's Malkhes Byale: oytobiografishe dertseylung, published in New York in 1973.
This retro library cover is from the Los Angeles Public Library. The book is the second volume of Yehezkel Kornhendler's Alt pariz, published in Paris in 1948.
This retro library cover is from the Newark Public Library. The book is the second volume of M. Ghitzis' Der veg tsum barg, published in Chicago in the 1940s.
Library stamps from all over the world grace the pages of the Center’s books, with many books displaying stamps from multiple libraries. This is a reminder that numerous books at the Center had long journeys well before they arrived in Amherst, Massachusetts. The books here tend to be well traveled, like the people who wrote, published, manufactured, and read them.
This book about Birobidzhan (Russia) was published in Kiev (Ukraine) and has stamps from Brussels (Belgium) and Johannesburg (South Africa). The book is M. Alberton's Biro-Bidzhan: veg-ayndrukn, published in Kiev in 1929.
This Yiddish and French stamp is from a literature and drama circle in Cairo (Egypt) and arrived at the Center in a box of books from Sydney (Australia). These stamps can be found on the title page, table of contents, and at the end of the text in the third volume of Peretz Hirschbein's Gezamelte dramen, published in New York in 1916.
This Russian-language stamp is from a Russian-Jewish bookstore and library in Odessa. The book is A. Mamurovsky's Di hagode fun der linker zayt, published in Odessa in 1908.
This library stamp is from La Paz (Bolivia). It can be found in Mikraʼot gedolot humash bet Yehuda Ha-Shalem: shemot, published in Hebrew and Yiddish in New York in 1953.
Here are two Yiddish and English library stamps from Bulawayo (Zimbabwe), along with one stamp from London (England). These stamps can be found on the endpapers of E. Sborovsky's Liebe un fanatizmus: oder a kampf gegen elteren: a roman fun yudishen leben, published in London in 1904.
These three stamps in Yiddish and Spanish are all from Buenos Aires (Argentina). They can be found on the endpapers of Zalman Rejzen's Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, prese un filologye, the first volume published in Vilnius in 1926.
These stamps come from Capetown (South Africa). They can be found on the half title page of Ale verk fun Mendele Moykher Sforim (Sh. Y. Abromovits), the third volume containing the work Di kliatshe. This edition was published in 1910 in New York, Vilnius, Warsaw, and Krakow.
This stamp is from Memphis (Tennessee) and can be found above Memphis (Egypt) on this fold-out map from Philip Krantz's Yetsies mitsraim, published in New York in 1901.
These three Yiddish and Spanish stamps are all from Mexico. They can be found on the title page of David Einhorn's Shvarts-royt: gedanken un bilder, published in Warsaw in 1921.
These library stamps are from Rochester, Minnesota, and Dubuque, Iowa. They can be found on the title page and endpapers of Knut Hamsun's Pan: fun leytenant Thomas Glahn's papiren, translated into Yiddish by A. Frumkin. This second edition was published in London in 1910.
This Spanish-language stamp is from La Plata (Argentina). It can be found on the title page of David Kassel's In dorf, the fourth edition published in Warsaw in 1923.
This Hebrew and Yiddish stamp comes from Sierpc (Poland) and can be found on the title page, endpapers, and text of Stanisław Przybyszewski's Dos glik: drama in dray akten, translated by Z. Rozes and published in London in 1908.
This Yiddish and English stamp from Winnipeg (Manitoba) can be found on Mani Leib's Idishe un slavishe motiven, published in New York in 1918.
These stamps in Yiddish and Spanish are from Havana (Cuba). They can be found in Otto Werner's Di kunst fun libe: a nutslikh bukh far yung un alt, translated into Yiddish by Leon Radomski and published in Warsaw in 1927.
These stamps in English and Swedish are from Sweden. They can be found on the title page of Yehuda Leyb Cahan's Yidishe folksmeyses oys dem folksmoyl gezamlt, published in New York and Vilnius in 1931.
This stamp is from Toledo, Ohio and can be found on Arthur Schnitzler's Der karahod: tsen diologen, translated by D. B. Mikrokosmos and published in New York in 1916.
This Yiddish stamp, next to an illustration of a mosquito, comes from Brussels (Belgium) and can be found in Y. A. Merison's Higyene: di lehre vi tsu ferhiten dos gezund, published in New York in 1916.
This stamp is from London (England) and has the bookcase, shelf, and number designation for this book. It can be found on the title page of Sarach Kadisch's Otsar ha-hayim, published in Prague in 1832. The text is in Hebrew and German (in Hebrew script).
This perforated stamp comes from the Minneapolis Public Library. It can be found on the title page (verso photographed here) of M. (Mosheh) Zeyfert's A gast fun yener velt, published in New York (undated).
This stamp and bookplate, from the Jewish Public Library in Montreal (Quebec), can be found in Ph. (Philip) Krantz' Yozefus Flavyus: Yosef ben Matityahu, published in New York in 1905.
Many of the Center's Yiddish books that formerly resided in libraries were eventually weeded out of library collections before making their way to the Center. Quite a few of these books, therefore, not only have library acquisition stamps, but also stamps showing that they were deaccessioned. This particular stamp, "Withdrawn by Order of the Librarian," is rather more prominent and has more character than the usual library deaccession stamp. These stamps and bookplate are from the Hebrew Teacher's College in Boston (Massachusetts). They can be found in Ph. (Philip) Krantz' Di kulturgeshikhte, the second volume of the second edition, published in New York and copyrighted in 1903.
In addition to interesting locales, the Center’s books have passed through the libraries and book repositories of some rather unusual organizations, including a depot for books looted by the Nazis, a vegetarian restaurant, a hospital for consumptives, a Californian Yiddish community for chicken farmers, a Lithuanian branch of the Maccabi sports club, and a mysterious “intimate club.”
This intriguing "Intimate Club" stamp in Yiddish and English is from Fayvl Yosefish' Teater gan-eydn: ale shlager's fun "Sambatayon": reperatuar eynakters, komedyes, monologn un farsn, published in Warsaw in 1930.
This stamp is from the "Offenbach Archival Depot" in Offenbach Am Main (Germany), which was established by the Allies after the Second World War to store Nazi-looted books and other items. This stamp can be found on the verso of the last page of text of Mahazor ‘im kavanat ha-Payetan, printed in Amsterdam in 1749 or 1750.
This stamp from the "National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives" can be found on the title page of B. Gorin's Shifrah di ferfihrte: ertsehlung, published in New York in 1910. Dated stamps, going back to 1915 and 1916, can be found on the cover of this copy.
This stamp comes from Petaluma, California, where there was once a vibrant community of Jewish chicken farmers. This stamp can be found in Sz. Horonczyk's novel Zump, published in Warsaw in 1927.
This stamp, in Lithuanian and Hebrew, is from the Rietavas (Lithuania) branch of the Maccabi club, a Zionist sports club. This stamp can be found on the title page, the page listing characters in the drama, and on the last page of text of I. Zlatarewski's Der yeshive bokher: oder der yudisher Hamlet: a pyese in fir akten un zeks bilder, published in Warsaw in either 1907 or 1908. This particular copy also has a bookplate from South Africa.
This stamp from the "Pythagorean (Vegetarian) Restaurant" in New York can be found on the cover of a small booklet by H. Goldblum entitled Vegetarizm: eyn entfer af di argumenten gegen vegetarizm, vos iz ershienen den letsten monat Detsember in "Ivning zshurnal" un in der "Vorheyt," published in New York in 1913.
This stamp from the "N.W. Jewish Speaking Branch Socialist Party Chicago" can be found on the endpapers and first page of text of Nahum-Meʼir Shaykevitsh' Di goldene kelber: oder der katsev in salon: roman in tsvey theyl, published in Vilnius in 1887.
This stamp from the "Library of Jewish Farmers Community Toms River, New Jersey" can be found on the title page and endpapers of the third volume of Philip Krantz' Di kulturgeshikhte: der mensh un zayn arbeyt, the sixth edition published in New York in 1903.
This stamp from the "Golden Age Club Library Winnipeg, Man." can be found on the table of contents of the first volume of Ale shriften fun Mendele Mokher Sefarim, published in New York in the early 1900s.
The purple stamp is from the "Ladies Branch of A.R. [Arbeter Ring]," and the faint red stamp is from the "Progressive Library Federation," both from Trenton (New Jersey). They can be found on the title page of Sholem Asch's Yugend, published in Warsaw in 1908.
The stamps "Socialist Library Organization" and "The Jewish Young Peoples Socialist League Organized Oct. 4, 1914 Pittsburgh, Pa" can be found in Paul Henri Thiry Holbach's Gloyben un fernunft, translated into Yiddish by Saul Joseph Janovsky and published in London in 1907.
This English and Russian stamp from the "Brooklyn Russ. Soc. Dem. Ass'n" can be found in a volume containing different works bound together, including those by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Y. Y. Fridman, Sholem Asch, and I. L. Peretz.
These stamps, from the "Young Mens' Hebrew Assn Organized Dec., 5, 1897 Portland, -- Maine" can be found in A. Tanenboym's Di helden fun der nakht: a hekhst interesanter un belehrender roman fun leben, published in Chicago at the end of the 19th to early 20th century.
Catalog cards reveal which books were taken out where and when, signifying the localized popularity of a particular work, as well as general Yiddish readership in that community. For instance, catalog cards show that Yiddish books from the Free Public Library of New Haven were often borrowed frequently in the 1930s–1950s. Sometimes catalog cards can even identify the individuals who borrowed books in a certain place and time. Catalog cards from the Library of the J.C.R.S. [Jewish Consumptive Relief Society] Sanatorium in Colorado usually have names written under the stamped dates that they were taken out. Tracing these names in the J.C.R.S. database provides background for who these readers were: their year and place of birth, entry to the United States, occupation, immediate family, and the dates they were at the J.C.R.S. Sanatorium.
The many different shapes, sizes, and colors of catalog cards found here.
All these books and their corresponding catalog cards are from the Free Public Library of New Haven (Connecticut). Each book has numerous stamps, which is typical of books from this library system, showing that there was a strong Yiddish readership in New Haven during this era (dates here range from 1930-1959).
Here is a close up of one of the books from the Free Public Library of New Haven (Connecticut). The catalog card, catalog card pocket, and flyleaf are all stamped "Foreign Room," apparently where the Yiddish books could be found. This book is the first volume of Mikhail Artsybashev's Der letster shtrikh: roman in tsvey bend, translated from Russian into Yiddish by Ts. Sorin and published in New York in the early 1900s.
On this catalog card, names are written under the dates that the book was taken out. The library stamps and catalog card are from the "Isidore Hurwitz Library of the J.C.R.S. [Jewish Consumptive Relief Society's Sanatorium] Spivak, Colorado." This book is Nahum-Meʼir Shaykevitsh' Der aremer milyoner: eyn hekhst interesanter roman in tsvey theyl, published in Warsaw in 1892-1893. By selecting a legible name and searching the University of Denver's Jewish Consumptive Relief Society's database, we can learn that, for example, D. [David] Rosenfeld (listed bottom left in the catalog card), was born in Sovoka (Russia), came to the United States in 1914, became a salesman, was admitted to the J.C.R.S. at the age of 30 in 1926, and left on his own in 1928. And now we know what he read during this time...
This catalog card is also from the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society's Sanatorium library, and the book is Leon Zolotkof's Tsvishen liebe un milyonen: oder durkh fayer un ayzerne keytn, published in New York in 1899. By again searching the University of Denver's Jewish Consumptive Relief Society's database, we can learn that, for example, Rose Fine (listed on the left, third from the bottom in the catalog card), was born in Radomyśl(Poland), came to the United States in 1913, was a housewife with 4 children, and was admitted to the J.C.R.S. at the age of 42 in 1940.
These colorful catalog card stamps come from the Denver Public Library. Each date appears to have a number next to it, perhaps the patron's (library card) number? This catalog card can be found in Avraham Vieviorka's Himel un erd, published in Lʹviv (Ukraine) in 1909. This must have been a popular work, at least in Denver at the time, as both columns of the catalog card are completely full.
These neatly stamped catalog cards are from the Fall River Public Library in Massachusetts. The dates on the catalog card in the pocket each have a number next to them, also perhaps the patrons' (library card) numbers? This catalog card can be found in the first volume of Hayim Malits' Katherina: historisher roman fun rusland un fun der rusisher kayzerlikher dinastye, published in New York in 1912. This one was likely a popular work as well, at least in that place and time, because both columns of the catalog cards are completely full, and the card in the pocket even continues onto the back.
These two books and their corresponding catalog cards come from the Minneapolis Public Library Branch K (Sumner Branch). The book on top has a catalog card in a pocket with numbers next to each date, again perhaps the patrons' library card numbers? The book on the bottom seems to have numbers and even some names written after each date on the flyleaf. The book on top is M. Zeyfert's A gast fun yener velt: a humoristishe ertsehlung, published in New York (undated), and the book on the bottom is Mordecai Spector's Di dray parshoyn: ertsehlung fun di 70-er un 80-er yohren, published in New York (undated).
In addition to these little pieces of evidence left behind in specific volumes, the Center has a few library handbooks that shed light on the inner workings of these libraries, such as Hantbukh far biblyotekn (Handbook for Libraries), Bibliotek arbet (Library Work), and Yohrbukh far yudishe biblyoteken af 1914 yohr (Yearbook for Jewish Libraries in the Year 1914). There even existed a series on library knowledge with titles including Funandershteln bikher in bibliotekn (Arranging Books in Libraries), available through Harvard. Other books here contain labels or leaflets with their library’s borrowing policies, as well as other information about the libraries where these books were once housed.
Clockwise from top left: Yohrbukh far yudishe biblioteken af 1914 yohr, published in Vilnius in 1914; Bibliotek-arbet: kurtser hantbukh far idishe bibliotek-tuer, published in Moscow in 1927; and Hantbukh far biblyotekn, published in Warsaw in 1929.
The borrowing rules from the Temple Beth-El Library in Providence, Rhode Island are strict and succinct. The book is Abraham Goldfaden's Dos yudeli, published in L'viv in 1881.
These borrowing rules and library policies come from the Jewish Worker Club Library in Johannesburg. Books can be taken out for up to 15 days, and the library is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30-9 p.m. These rules and policies can be found in M. Alʹberton's Biro-Bidzhan: veg-ayndrukn, published in Kharkiv in 1929.
These are the borrowing rules from the Hebrew Progressive Library in Richmond, Virginia. The rules paraphrased are 1) Each reader or member must have "alaybreri kard" to take out books, 2) Each reader must make "adepozit" for books taken out, 3) Books can be taken out for 10 days—any longer and it's a one cent per day fine, and 4) Each reader is responsible for the book taken out and must pay for damaged/lost books. These borrowing rules can be found in A. S. Lirick's Der arbeyts-tog un zayn bedaytung, published in Warsaw in 1907.
This leaflet (detached from its book long ago) is from the Library and Reading Room at the Jewish Center in Havana. It cautions parents that their children should become friends with Jewish books and encourages youth to remind their parents not to forget their good friend, the Jewish book, which is the pride of the people of the book! It also reminds readers to not lick their fingers when turning the book's pages, bend the book's pages, eat while handling the book, and other such borrowing etiquette.
Library statistics from the aforementioned library handbooks and others help paint a picture of Jewish libraries and libraries with Jewish books in the Russian Empire, Soviet Union, Canada, and the United States. They document not only the existence of various Jewish libraries, but specifics about their collections and communities. Included are circulation statistics and even a list of confiscated books from the Russian Empire.
This chart lists the number (and percentage of the total) of legal Jewish libraries by region in the Russian Empire in 1911. From top to bottom, the regions include the Northwest, Southwest, South Russia, Poland, Baltic, and interior provinces. The text directly beneath this chart notes that in 1905, just six years earlier, there were only 100 Jewish libraries in the Russian Empire, compared to the 291 existing in 1911. From Yohrbukh far yudishe biblioteken af 1914 yohr, published in Vilnius in 1914 (page 6).
An alphabetical listing by province of the legal Jewish libraries in the Russian Empire. From Yohrbukh far yudishe biblioteken af 1914 yohr, published in Vilnius in 1914 (pages 121-127).
The linguistic spread of books at legal Jewish libraries in the Russian Empire in 1911. The rightmost column distributes 85 Jewish libraries into 7 groupings by number of books held (200-300 books, 300-500 books, 500-1,000 books, 1,000-3,000 books, 3,000-5,000 books, 5,000-10,000 books, and 10,000+ books). The remaining columns, from right to left, show the average number of books held in Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, and all languages. Every library grouping has a majority of Russian books, except for the smallest grouping (200-300 books), which has more Yiddish books than any other language. From Yohrbukh far yudishe biblioteken af 1914 yohr, published in Vilnius in 1914 (page 16).
The number of library patrons in 85 of the 291 legal Jewish libraries in the Russian Empire was 26,123 in 1911. This number is broken down by age and profession: children (9,566), minors (8,258), adults (7,097), seniors (1,202), apprentices (13,383), laborers and clerks (4,231), intellectual professionals (2,501), and miscellaneous (7,007). From Yohrbukh far yudishe biblioteken af 1914 yohr, published in Vilnius in 1914 (page 17).
An alphabetical listing of recommended books for Jewish libraries in the Russian Empire. It begins with Yiddish language books (belles-lettres, nonfiction, and children's literature) and then continues onto Hebrew and Russian-Jewish books. From Yohrbukh far yudishe biblioteken af 1914 yohr, published in Vilnius in 1914 (pages 109-118).
An alphabetical listing of books confiscated from libraries in the Russian Empire between the years 1906-1913. The list is only partial because during this timeframe nearly 3,000 books were confiscated. But information is provided about how to order the full listing for those years, as well as forthcoming quarterly supplements. Having books confiscated from a library could mean the closure of that library, which is why it is recommended to be up to date on the latest confiscations. From Yohrbukh far yudishe biblioteken af 1914 yohr, published in Vilnius in 1914 (pages 130-143).
These circulation statistics come from the M. Winchevsky central Jewish state library in Kiev (Di kiever tsentrale yidishe melukhe-bibliotek afn nomen fun M. Vintshevski). The rightmost column lists the genres: 0 general, 1 philosophy, 2 religion, 3 social sciences, 4 philology, 5 exact science, 6 applied science, 7 art, 8 literature, 9 history. The remaining three columns show the number of books borrowed by library members for the years 1926-1927, 1927-1928, and 1928-1929, subdivided by Yiddish on the right and Russian on the left. This article also contains a similar chart for books consulted in the reading room, as well as a breakdown of the collection by language and the genres above, a breakdown of library patrons by profession, and circulation statistics per library patron professional category. From Biblyologisher zamlbukh I, published in the Soviet Union in 1930 (page 277).
These statistics come from the Jewish section of the V. Korolenko state library in Kharkiv (Di yidishe opteylung fun der kharkover melukhe-bibliotek afn nomen fun V. Korolenko). The listing on top is a breakdown of the library patrons by profession in 1929. From top to bottom, they are: apprentices (160), employees (45), laborers (60), self-employed (35), home craftsman (71), and homemakers (29). The listing below this is a breakdown of books borrowed (taken home) by genre in 1929. From top to bottom, they are: Yiddish-original belles-lettres (1806), translated works (390), history/memoir/critique (222), politics (506), exact sciences (204), language and folklore (140), antireligion (66), journals and anthologies (210), and the total (3544). From Biblyologisher zamlbukh I, published in the Soviet Union in 1930 (page 298).
These statistics come from the state public library in Odessa (Di melukhishe efntlekhe bibliotek in odes). The rightmost column of the table lists, from top to bottom: the number of readers, searches, borrowed books, book instruction, and bibliographic consultations. The data is for the years 1922-1928. Below the table is a breakdown of the library patrons by profession for the last five years (1924-1928). It includes students (55-66%), intellectual workers (30-35%), physical workers (5%), and military personnel and sailors (1-2%). From Biblyologisher zamlbukh I, published in the Soviet Union in 1930 (page 293).
This data is from the Jewish Public Library in Montreal. It lists adult circulation statistics (number of books borrowed and percent of total) for books in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and the three languages combined for the years 1915-1956. During this time period, the number of books borrowed rose in all categories. But the percent of the total varied per language. Yiddish fell from 85% in 1915 to 40% in 1956. Hebrew remained relatively steady and low, beginning with 4% in 1915 and ending with 6% in 1956. English rose from 8% in 1915 to 55% in 1956. There is also a similar chart for children's circulation statistics. These statistics mirror the linguistic trends of the Montreal Jewish community. From Biblyotek bukh: 1914-1957, published in Montreal in 1957.
This table shows the average yearly circulation of Yiddish books in public libraries for various cities in the United States between the years 1918-1947. The column on the right lists the date range and the remaining columns from right to left are: New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Buffalo. In these 7 cities, the number of Yiddish books borrowed from libraries ultimately decreased, but in a few cases (Chicago and Cleveland), they rose during the years 1928-1932 before declining. From The Jewish Review: A Journal Devoted to the Study and Interpretation of Jewish Life and Thought (Gedank un lebn: a shrift far yidishe shtudyes) Volume V, 1948, published in New York.
This data comes from three New York Public Library branches (Seward Park, Hamilton Fish Park, and Tremont) for February-April of 1948. It shows the percentage of books borrowed broken down by genre/form for both Hebrew and Yiddish (with totals on the bottom). The column on the left is Hebrew, in the middle is Yiddish, and on the right are the genres/forms. The genres/forms are, from top to bottom: fiction (novels, short stories); literature (dramas, poetry, essays); religion (and Jewish subjects); biography; history; sociology; philosophy; travel writing; technology (including cookbooks); art; science; philology; and general. From The Jewish Review: A Journal Devoted to the Study and Interpretation of Jewish Life and Thought (Gedank un lebn: a shrift far yidishe shtudyes) Volume V, 1948, published in New York.
It is possible to learn about such libraries, not only through the content of the library handbooks described above, but also through the content of many Yiddish novels, Yiddish memoirs, yizkor books, and other books in the Center’s collection. Some of the passages relating to libraries have been translated and are available on the Center’s website. For example, Seymour Levitan translated Rachel Auerbach’s The Librarians, about the librarians of the Warsaw Ghetto.
The Center’s Wexler Oral History Project also has some wonderful interviews and clips about libraries. Eva Raby, former director of the Jewish Public Library (JPL) in Montreal (Quebec), discusses the origins of the JPL, and Sylvia Lustgarten and Annette Zakuta, daughters of Yiddish writer Y. Y. Segal, talk about their memories of the JPL and the librarian, Rokhl Korn. Liba Augenfeld, a Vilna native and former Jewish partisan, speaks of the children’s library in Vilnius (Lithuania), and, below, Jack Lewin remembers his hometown of Łódź (Poland) and the library he would frequent there: