Prince of the Press How One Collector Built History’s Most Enduring and Remarkable Jewish Library Joshua Teplitsky

Publication date:
26 Feb 2019
Yale University Press
336 pages: 235 x 156 x 29mm
34 b-w illus.
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David Oppenheim (1664–1736), chief rabbi of Prague in the early eighteenth century, built an unparalleled collection of Jewish books and manuscripts, all of which have survived and are housed in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. His remarkable collection testifies to the myriad connections Jews maintained with each other across political borders, and the contacts between Christians and Jews that books facilitated. From contact with the great courts of European nobility to the poor of Jerusalem, his family ties brought him into networks of power, prestige, and opportunity that extended across Europe and the Mediterranean basin. Containing works of law and literature alongside prayer and poetry, his library served rabbinic scholars and communal leaders, introduced old books to new readers, and functioned as a unique source of personal authority that gained him fame throughout Jewish society and beyond. The story of his life and library brings together culture, commerce, and politics, all filtered through this extraordinary collection. Based on the careful reconstruction of an archive that is still visited by scholars today, Joshua Teplitsky’s book offers a window into the social life of Jewish books in early modern Europe.

Joshua Teplitsky is assistant professor of history at Stony Brook University. He specializes in the history of the Jews in Europe in the early modern period and in the study of books and media. He lives in New York City.

“Teplitsky’s book sheds significant light on the intellectual life of Jewish communities and cross-cultural activity in early modern Europe through the examination of Oppenheim's extraordinary library” —Colin Steele, Australian Biblionews

Finalist in the 2019 National Jewish Book Awards, Scholarship category, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council

Winner of the 2019 Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize, sponsored by the American Academy for Jewish Research

Winner of the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award, Modern Jewish History and Culture category, sponsored by the Association for Jewish Studies

“David Oppenheim was a great rabbi and a greater information master. This riveting book shows how he built a treasury of Jewish learning and life—and used it, working with both scribes and printers, to underpin his reputation and authority.”—Anthony Grafton, Princeton University

“Teplitsky’s masterful, learned, and beautifully written guide to a dazzling empire of books provides an intellectual feast for historians and an indispensable treasure for book lovers of all kinds.”—Elisheva Carlebach, Columbia University

“In this innovative and groundbreaking book, Joshua Teplitsky uses his unparalleled familiarity with the Oppenheim collection--whose story and significance has remained untold--to open up a world of power and politics in the Jewish communities of Central Europe. This will be an important book that will be read and enjoyed for years to come.”—Debra Kaplan, Bar-Ilan University

“Joshua Teplitsky vividly presents the story of David Oppenheim through the lens of his famous book collection. This is an important, elegant book about the value and power of libraries in politics and culture.”—Magda Teter, Fordham University

“Teplitsky’s biography of David Oppenheim combines the newest insights in Jewish intellectual and book history with an exciting and innovative interpretation of all relevant primary sources. Prince of the Press is a great achievement in the modern study of the Jewish book.”—Emile Schrijver, Jewish Cultural Quarter