SELECT TREASURES OF THE VALMADONNA TRUST LIBRARY J. V. Lunzer (1924-2016) was one of the greatest Hebrew book collectors of the twentieth century. In England, where Jewish bibliophiles seemed to sprout like mushrooms, he was the fourth in a pantheon of book men – after Moses Gaster, E. N. Adler and D. S. Sassoon - whose collections in whole or in part came to adorn institutional libraries on both sides of the Atlantic and in Israel. The Valmadonna Trust Library, of which Lunzer was Custodian, was unquestionably the greatest private collection of early and rare Hebrew books in the world. Valmadonna (Lunzer called the library “Val”) encompassed the earliest Hebrew books from the European and Balkan centres of Hebrew printing of the 15th to 18th centuries, in particular Venice, Constantinople, Prague, Salonika, Basle, Amsterdam, and Livorno. Most impressive among the library’s contents were the incunabula (books printed before 1500), books printed on vellum, coloured or other special papers, and many unica, that is, books of which no other copy, or complete copy, is extant. The library was also extraordinarily rich in Spanish and Portuguese Judaica of the 17th and 18th centuries. Anyone who had occasion to visit the library, or see exhibits of it in London or New York, could not but be awed by its chronological range, geographic extent, and cultural depth. Lunzer was expert in Hebrew printing history. I remember thinking when I first met him 35 years ago that if one didn’t know he was a diamond merchant it would be impossible to imagine he was anything other than the most learned curator of Hebrew books. Obsessive, single-minded and meticulous, he acquired books from every place of printing and every printer. Not only was the totality of Jewish book production represented in the collection, but in unique or nearly unique, flawless, deluxe, variant, excessively rare or altogether unrecorded copies, all elegantly bound or restored. His expertise and passion were apparent in putting together the collection, from which a choice selection is described in this catalogue. Over 40 places of Hebrew printing are featured here, in books from historic presses across the European continent and beyond. There are exempla from the humanist master-printers and publishers of the 16th century, Bomberg, Di Gara, Giustinian, Bragadin, Froben, Plantin, and other houses which produced Hebrew books in the early centuries of the press. Of the famous Jewish printers from the incunable period through the 17th century are names which resonate of momentous events in Jewish history - of expulsions, book burnings, persecutions and migrations on the one hand, and ennobling moments of technical achievement and intellectual creativity on the other: Eliezer Toledano in Lisbon, generations of Soncinos in Italy and the East, Ibn Nahmias in Constantinople, the Company of Silk Weavers in Bologna, Usque in Ferrara, Dona Reyna in the Belvedere palace near Orta Köy, Manasseh Ben Israel in Amsterdam, and Israel Bak in Jerusalem. INCUNABULA. Valmadonna held more Hebrew books made before 1500, just after Gutenberg’s invention of typography, than most national libraries in Europe and North America. The 16 titles described in this auction catalogue comprise one of the largest groups of Hebrew incunabula ever offered at auction. The earliest is Bedersi’s Behinat ‘Olam printed in Soncino in northern Italy in 1484 (Lot 25). Also from Soncino is Sefer Mitsvot Gadol by Moses of Coucy (172), printed in 1488, the very year the first edition of the Hebrew Bible came off this press (with the colophon “From Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Soncino”). The Mazhor (festival liturgy) begun in Soncino in 1485 and completed in nearby Casalmaggiore the next year was the very first printed Jewish prayer book (142). The poetical Mahbarot of Immanuel of Rome, issued by Soncino in Brescia in 1491, is one of only two secular Hebrew books printed before 1500; it shows signs of the Zodiac and is considered one of the first two illustrated Hebrew books, which were both printed in this town that same year (105). There are no fewer than seven books from Naples, produced between 1487 and 1491. Several Jewish printers, including a Soncino, were active here before the press was closed by plague in 1492. Among these are biblical books with medieval commentaries, including Psalms with Kimhi (29), Job with Gersonides (30), Ecclesiastes (31), and the Five Scrolls with Rashi (32), as well as two editions of the Pentateuch with Nahmanides’ commentary (168-69). There are also two editions of Kimhi’s biblical dictionary, Shorashim (122-23). An eighth book, the anonymous legal code Kol Bo, is a bibliographic riddle (the paper’s watermark was the first in a Hebrew book to be studied); it may have been completed in Naples in 1492 (131). — —