The rare and unique treasures held by Yeshiva University constitute the Library's Special Collections. These rare books, manuscripts and archival records document the Jewish religious, literary and cultural heritage. Scholars and visitors are welcome to consult the Special Collections. It is advisable to make arrangements in advance of your visit - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Approximately eight thousand printed volumes, most of them in Hebrew, are included in the rare collections. The oldest among them, forty Hebrew incunabula, are described in detail, with photographs, in the Hebrew volume Sifre ha-defus ha-rishonim (Inkunabulim): Bet ha-sefarim al-shem Mendel Gottesman, Yeshivah-Universitah by Gershon Cohen (Hebrew Incunabula: Mendel Gottesman Library of Hebraica-Judaica, Yeshiva University) published by Yeshiva University Press in 1984. Many of the rare books were originally part of the library of Berthold Baruch Strauss, a London collector.
The Sephardic Reference Room houses an extensive collection of books, pamphlets and audio materials in Judeo-Arabic, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), Hebrew and English, most of them gifts from prominent Sephardic rabbis and collectors.
The collection includes over one thousand rabbinic and historical manuscripts. Many of the manuscripts are from the library of Louis Lewin (1868-1941), a rabbi who served in various communities in Posen and Silesia, and a prolific author who wrote extensively about the Jewish communities in those areas. Descriptions of the manuscripts are available in the YULIS catalog.
Four hundred rabbinic manuscripts include works on Jewish law, homiletics, ethics, philosophy, mysticism, commentaries on the Bible and Talmud, and rabbinic correspondence. The lavishly illuminated Prague Bible of 1488, by the scribe Mattathias ben Jonah of Laun, Bohemia, a gift of Ludwig and Erica Jesselson, is the jewel of the collection. In addition to the beauty of the manuscript, it is valuable for Rashi's commentary, which differs from that found in printed editions. The collection of the Rogachover, Joseph Rozin (1858-1936), rabbi of Dvinsk, a gift of William Safern, includes questions posed to Rabbi Rozin from correspondents all over the world. The rabbinic manuscripts are described in depth in Hebrew, with abridged descriptions in English, in Osef kitve-ha-yad ha-rabaniyim: Sifriyat Mendel Gottesman, Yeshivah-Universitah (Rabbinic Manuscripts: Mendel Gottesman Library, Yeshiva University), by Joseph Avivi.
The Archives holds organizational and institutional records and private papers relating to modern Jewish history and culture in the United States and abroad. As the repository for Yeshiva University records, the Archives retains papers of University administrators created in their official capacity, files of the Communications and Public Affairs Office, and copies of official University and student publications. Correspondence, photographs, audiotapes, architectural drawings, broadsides and ephemera exemplify the types of material in the Collections. For more information on archival holdings, consult the Archives Finding Aids Database.
Mendel Gottesman Library - Special Collections
2520 Amsterdam Avenue - entrance on 185th Street
New York, NY 10033