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GIFT BOOKS IN BRIEF : FROM THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress by Abraham Karp (Rizzoli/Library of Congress: $50).

December 01, 1991|Kenneth Turan

It all started, as most things seem to, with Thomas Jefferson. When he donated his private book collection to the needy national library in 1815, it included seven volumes of "Judaica," a small seed that has since grown 10,000-fold. This beautifully produced book shows off the gems of that hoard in more than 300 illustrations, everything from gorgeous ketuboth (marriage certificates) and mysterious amulets to the astronomical tables compiled by a rabbi and used by Columbus on his journeys. Since Jews are known as the people of the book, many of the treasures are books, including the first printed Hebrew book and the first book in any language to be printed in Africa. Abraham Karp's thoughtful, informative text turns this from a guide to a collection to an intriguing gloss on all of Jewish history and culture as well.

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