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.
W. M. Blumenthal Academy, Library
Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin Postal address: Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin
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.
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.
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 Switzerland in 1933 and via Amsterdam to Jerusalem in 1935.
Digitization of Holdings
In the course of a digitization project in 2016, we digitized these collections and cataloged the related archival documents. In addition, we expanded the library database to make the digital copies available online (show publications in our OPAC). You can find out more about the project on our website.
Soncino Society Collection Title List (in German)
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- 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.
Special Collections: On Jewish Art and Culture (5)
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 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 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 Ulrich von Kritter Collection
The collection comprises around sixty illustrated works of German-Jewish and Yiddish Literature (1920–1990).
The William L. Gross Collection
The 400-book collection includes Judaica, documents, and literature on Jewish art and culture.
Digitizing Book Holdings
Soncino Society of Friends of the Jewish Book (1924–1937)
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Hermann Struck (Artist)
Jakob Steinhardt (Artist)
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Objects from the Soncino Society