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Books & Manuscripts

The Valmadonna Collection Heads to the National Library of Israel

NEW YORK – The finest private library of Jewish books and manuscripts in the world has found its new home at the National Library of Israel (NLI) through a private sale arranged by Sotheby’s. The renowned Valmadonna Trust Library, assembled over a period of more than six decades by visionary collector Jack Lunzer, will be housed in the NLI's landmark new building in Jerusalem, designed by award-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron, due to open to the public in 2020.

Founded in 1892, the NLI is unique among the great libraries of the world. It is the primary institution of national memory of the State of Israel and of Jewish people throughout the world and it is the home of the largest collection of works concerned with Jewish life and Israel, as well as a leading collection for Islamic and Middle Eastern studies. Tasked with collecting, preserving and providing access to the cultural treasures of both the State of Israel and the international Jewish community, the NLI has recently embarked upon an initiative to transform itself into a cutting-edge global centre at the forefront of knowledge dissemination and cultural creativity. The acquisition of the Valmadonna collection, made jointly with Archaeology, Books and Judaica collectors Dr. David and Jemima Jeselsohn, marks another step in this ambitious transition.

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RENDERING OF THE NEW NLI BUILDING. IMAGE: COURTESY OF HERZOG & DE MEURON.

"The acquisition of the Valmadonna and its arrival in Jerusalem present a tremendous opportunity for the National Library of Israel to further realize the vision of its renewal, as we will open access to these exquisite cultural treasures for researchers and the general public in Israel and across the globe," says Oren Weinberg, Director of the NLI.

Comprised of a wide-ranging group of more than 10,000 works that chart the spread of Hebrew printing and the global dissemination of Jewish culture, the Valmadonna Trust Library includes highlights such as an incunabula of the Pentateuch, printed in Lisbon in 1491; one of only two surviving copies of a Passover Haggadah printed in Prague in 1556; the Plantin Polyglot or “King’s Bible,” printed in Antwerp between 1568 and 1573; and more than 550 broadsheets dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

“Representing the Valmadonna Trust and its custodian Jack Lunzer has been a great privilege for Sotheby’s," says Richard Austin, Sotheby's Head of Books & Manuscripts, New York. "The placement of the collection in the National Library of Israel is a fitting end to a tremendous collector’s journey that began more than half a century ago.”

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