Berthold-Baruch Strauss, born in 1901, was a book collector, originally from Leipzig in Germany, who came to England with his private library in 1933, and was able to add to it significantly in Britain until his early death in 1962. During the Blitz he moved his collection temporarily to Chesham in Buckinghamshire, where other refugees from bombing included my grandparents.
Some years ago, the Golders Green book dealer, M. Rogosnitsky told me that I should use Baruch Strauss’s book, Ohel Baruch, which is a catalogue of his library, as a reference work. I have followed his advice ever since, collecting much of the Anglo-Judaica listed in the book, as well as other antique books. He gives clear details, including the number of pages in each book- very useful to check for missing pages. Of course, I could never afford to compete with the Strauss library as he had 32 incunabula (books printed before the year 1500) as well as many other rarities.
I cannot remember where I purchased my copy of Turei Even, but I recently noticed that it has a label, which says that it is from the books of Baruch ben Yaakov Meir Strauss, London. There is also a number, written in pencil, 2123, and the Hebrew word Kaful, which means duplicate and a date 10/85.
This is the entry for my book, number 2123 in the catalogue:
B. Strauss’s catalogue was printed in 1959 and took him three years to compile. The listing starts from the Hebrew end (the right) and starting from the English end is a section titled “My Library” followed by much useful information, especially about Hebrew book collectors.
This first section sets out Strauss’s views very clearly:
“Most of the well-known collections of Hebraica and Judaica, including those of academic, governmental or religious institutions, originated as private collections. When books are incorporated into such official libraries, their brief enjoyment of personality comes to an end…”
Here is a selection from Strauss’s description – but please read on after these pages….
Sadly, Strauss passed away in 1962, and the collection was purchased for Yeshiva University in New York in 1966. This was not exactly what Strauss had in mind when writing the piece above. The late Rabbi Harry Rabinowitz wrote a nostalgic piece in the Jewish Chronicle lamenting the major book collections that had been bought by American institutions, and were thus removed from their British origins. On the other hand – the collection is safe.
I did a quick survey of 18 graduates of Yeshiva University before writing this article. Only three said that they had heard of the Baruch Strauss collection.
At least – the rare books in the collection are safe. How do I explain my book, which has no Yeshiva University stamps or markings? At some time Yeshiva University seems to have sold off apparently unwanted books, perhaps duplicates of books that it already had.
To give an idea of the scope of the collection, here are some sample entries, and also links to a few of the Anglo-Judaica books that I have written about:
Finally, to get back to the book whose label started this article, here are the Haskamos – the Rabbinical Approbations – recommending this 1835 edition of Turei Even: