By Vanessa Freedman, on 24 July 2014
We have just started work on an exciting project to uncover a hidden treasure in UCL Special Collections: the Jewish pamphlets.The first phase of the project will take place over the next 12 months, and will involve cataloguing some 4,000 pamphlets from the Mocatta and De Sola collections. These collections formed part of the Mocatta Library, which was jointly founded by UCL and the Jewish Historical Society of England in 1906, after the philanthropist and bibliophile Frederic David Mocatta left his vast library to the Society. Mocatta’s collection was enriched by other donations and purchases in the early 20th century, becoming one of the finest and most comprehensive Jewish Studies libraries in the United Kingdom. Tragically, the library was destroyed by bombing in 1940; only the rarest books, pamphlets and manuscripts survived, having been moved to Wales for safekeeping.
However, the library was quickly re-constituted through donations from many individuals and organisations, including the Jewish collections of the Guildhall Library, and the extensive libraries of the journalist Asher Myers and the American scholar Cyrus Adler. It continued to be enlarged after the war; notable additions to the pamphlet collection came from the libraries of the historian Albert Hyamson and the Canadian rabbi Aaron David Meldola de Sola. The Mocatta Library was merged with UCL’s other Jewish collections in 1990.
The pamphlet collection covers a wide range of subjects throughout the field of Jewish Studies, particularly Anglo-Jewish history, Zionism and liturgy. The pamphlets date from 1601 onwards, and are in English, Hebrew and a number of other languages. Many of them are held in very few libraries, while some are extremely rare.
Detailed records for each pamphlet will be available to researchers and the general public via UCL’s Explore search tool, as well as COPAC and Search25. The material can be requested for teaching or research by contacting UCL Special Collections.
The first phase of the project will also include a small exhibition to showcase some of the most interesting items from the collection, and a conservation survey. By their nature pamphlets tend to be fragile, and this will also enable us to identify whether conservation work is required so that they can be preserved for future use.