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Yale University Gets Collection of Rare Hebrew Books

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A collection of 16th Century Hebrew books printed in Italy were presented to Yale University by Louis M. Rabinowitz, of New York, it was announced today by James T. Babb, Yale Librarian. The gift includes many editions marked by Italian ecclesiastical censors who crossed off words and sentences to which they objected and then certified in their own handwriting that they had read the books.

The censorship was imposed by ecclesiastics who were determined to eradicate any utterance they considered hostile to the Church. However, in a number of cases the censors’ ink has worn thin with time so that today the original Hebrew characters can be read clearly in the expurgated sections, Mr. Babb said.

The new Rabinowitz gift includes imprints of the Conti press at Cremoa, where thousands of Hebrew books and manuscripts were destroyed in a great bonfire set off in the middle of the 16th Century by order of the Inquisitional censors. A number of first and rare editions of important works on mysticism, theology and exegesis is included in the new acquisition.

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