The Soncino Society Collection at Our Library

Jewish Tradition Paired with Modern Book Arts

In May 1924, Herrmann Meyer (1901-1972) and the publishers Abraham Horodisch and Moses Marx co-founded the first and only Jewish bibliophile society in Germany, the Soncino Society of Friends of the Jewish Book (Soncino-Gesellschaft der Freunde des jüdischen Buches). Our library possesses a complete collection, with 80 titles, of the publications by the Soncino Society. These stem from the estate of Hermann Meyer and were acquired in 1993.

Where

W. M. Blumenthal Academy, Library

Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin
(Opposite the Museum)

Jewish Tradition and Modern Book Arts

The Soncino Society coupled Jewish tradition with modern book arts by republishing texts such as Briefe über den Talmud (Letters on the Talmud) by Jean Paul and Emanuel Osmund, translating contemporary literature such as Das Schass meines Grossvaters by Samuel Josef Agnon from the Hebrew, and commissioning Jacob Steinhardt to illustrate the apocryphal sayings of Jesus ben Sirach. For a lavish edition of the Bible, the Soncino Bible Society commissioned the font designer Marcus Behmer to develop a new Hebrew typeface.

Soncino Blätter Magazine and Private Editions for Members

In accordance with the statutes of 1924, the Society's publications were private editions exclusively for its members and were offered to other bibliophile societies at preferential prices. Only the magazine Soncino Blätter, published between 1925 and 1930, addressed a wider audience.

Members

The membership, first capped at 500 and soon raised to 800, united all the currents of German Jewry. Alongside numerous prominent figures from abroad, the member lists also included Jewish fraternal organizations and renowned libraries such as the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Hebrew National Library in Jerusalem, and the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig. The Honor Committee members included Leo Baeck, Max Brod, Martin Buber, Richard Beer-Hofmann, Chaim Bialik, and Hermann Struck.

Max Brod (1884–1968)

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Martin Buber (1878–1965)

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Richard Beer-Hofmann (1866–1945)

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Hayim Nahman Bialik (1873–1934)

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Hermann Struck (1876–1944)

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Jean Paul (1763–1825)

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Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888–1970)

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Marcus Behmer (1879–1958)

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Final Assembly and Emigration

The last annual assembly was held in 1931. The last books, published in 1937, had been prepared for printing years earlier. Herrmann Meyer emigrated to Jerusalem in 1934.

Titelblatt der Satzungen und Mitgliederverzeichnis der Soncino-Gesellschaft der Freunde des jüdischen Buches (1924) mit kleiner Zeichnung eines steinernen Turms

Constitution and member directory of the Soncino-Gesellschaft der Freunde des jüdischen Buches (1924); Jewish Museum Berlin

Digitization of Holdings

We are currently working on digitizing all publications in our Soncino collection and making them available online. You can find out more about the project on our website.

References

  • Brenner, Michael. Jewish Culture in the Weimar Republic.Munich: C. H. Beck Verlag, 2000, 190–194.
  • Bürger, Karin et al., eds. Soncino-Gesellschaft der Freunde des jüdischen Buches. Ein Beitrag zur Kulturgeschichte(Soncino Society of Friends of the Jewish Book: A Contribution to Cultural History), Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2014.
  • Heider, Ulrich. Die Soncino-Gesellschaft der Freunde des jüdischen Buches e. V. (1924–1937). Private edition on the occasion of the eponymous cabinet exhibition during the 2nd Kölner Antiquariatstage, Cologne, 2006.
  • Horodisch, Abraham. "Ein Abenteuer im Geiste. Die Soncino-Gesellschaft der Freunde des jüdischen Buches" (Adventure of the Spirit: The Soncino Society of Friends of the Jewish Book). In: Bibliotheca docet: Festgabe Carl Wehmer. Amsterdam: Verlag der Erasmus-Buchhandlung, 181–208.
  • Jensen, Bernard. Ein Kanon der jüdischen Renaissance. Soncino-Gesellschaft der Freunde des jüdischen Buches. Including an essay by Vera Bendt, Göttingen 2017.
Our Reading Room is open to the public. You can also research using our library’s holdings and some of our collection’s holdings online. To view additional holdings, please contact the responsible curators.
The contact person for photo reproductions is Valeska Wolfgram (tel.: +49 (0)30 259 93 433, email: v.wolfgram@jmberlin.de). Due to preparations for our new permanent exhibition, our time is very limited. We therefore ask that you please refrain from sending loan requests for the time being. For urgent inquiries, please contact Katrin Strube (tel.: +49 (0)30 259 93 417, email: k.strube@jmberlin.de).
Where

W. M. Blumenthal Academy, Library

Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin
(Opposite the Museum)

Special Collections (5) On Jewish Art and Culture Show all

On Jewish Art and Culture

Some of our Library’s most important collections include the volumes printed by the Soncino Society of Friends of Jewish Books (founded in 1924), the publications of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith, and special collections on Jewish art and visual culture.

The William L. Gross Collection

The 400-book collection includes Judaica, documents, and literature on Jewish art and culture.

The Ulrich von Kritter Collection

The collection comprises around sixty illustrated works of German-Jewish and Yiddish Literature (1920–1990).

The Kurt Löb Collection

The collection includes signed and unsigned works by the book illustrator, exhibition catalogs, essays by and about him, and his dissertation.

The Soncino Society Collection

With eighty Society publications from 1924 to 1937, our collection – a bequest from Hermann Meyer – is complete.

The John F. and Hertha Oppenheimer Collection

Publications of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith, other writings from the interwar period, and books published in the US after 1945

The Soncino Society

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