Press contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public contact: Peggy Pearlstein (202) 707-3779
Members of the media can find downloadable images from this exhibition in the Library's online pressroom at

September 24, 2012 (REVISED October 12, 2012)

New Library Exhibition Marks Centennial of Hebraic Collection

“Words Like Sapphires: 100 Years of Hebraica at the Library of Congress” Opens Oct. 25

A century ago, New York philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff purchased an initial collection of nearly 10,000 Hebrew books and pamphlets from bibliophile and book dealer Ephraim Deinard for the Library of Congress. This gift formed the nucleus of what is today one of the world’s greatest collections of Hebraic materials, comprising some 200,000 items.

The Library is celebrating the centennial of its Hebraic Collection with an exhibition titled "Words Like Sapphires: 100 Years of Hebraica at the Library of Congress, 1912-2012." The exhibition will be on view 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, from Oct. 25, 2012, through March 16, 2013, in the South Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. "Words Like Sapphires" is also part of the Library’s multiyear "Celebration of the Book," which explores the ways books influence lives.

The exhibition, made possible with generous support from the Abby and Emily Rapoport and the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Trust Funds at the Library of Congress, will feature more than 60 items dating from the 7th century through the present. Items from 15 countries in nine languages include Hebrew manuscripts, incunabula (pre-1501 books), a Torah scroll, Yiddish sheet music and contemporary limited edition artists’ books. Seven of the volumes on display came to the Library through Schiff’s original gift in 1912. More than half of the items in the exhibition have never been displayed.

"Words Like Sapphires" is divided into seven sections, each highlighting the strengths of the collection. These include: The People of the Book (the Bible); Cornerstones of Jewish Religious Life (Jewish law and tradition); Gates of Prayer (liturgy); Holy Land (Israel); Beauty in Holiness (decorative items of ritual use); The Power of the Tongue (Jewish language materials); and A New Song (Hebrew and Yiddish poetry).

Earlier this year, the Library published "Perspectives on the Hebraic Book: The Myron M. Weinstein Memorial Lectures at the Library of Congress" as part of the centennial celebration of its first gift of Hebraica. The book will be the subject of a free, public program to be held at noon on Monday, Oct. 29 in Room 119 of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, located at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. Sponsored jointly by the Hebraic Section and the Center for the Book, the event will feature several contributing authors. This 240-page softcover book, comprising nine essays and 30 illustrations, will be on sale for $35 at the event. It is also available in the Library of Congress Shop, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557, or shop online at

Several other programs are planned in conjunction with the exhibition. At noon on Thursday, Oct. 25, Emile Schrijver will discuss "The Jewish Book Since the Invention of Printing." Schrijver is curator of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, the Jewish special collection at the University of Amsterdam. At noon on Monday, Nov. 5, poet Peter Cole will discuss "One Hundred Years of Hebrew Poetry" in a program sponsored jointly with the Hebraic Section and the Poetry and Literature Center. At noon on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Irvin Ungar will deliver an illustrated lecture titled "The Fabric of American through the Art of Arthur Szyk" in a program sponsored jointly with the Hebraic Section and the Prints and Photographs Division. All three programs are free and open to the public in Room 220 of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 151 million items in various languages, disciplines, and formats. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at

The Hebraic Section of the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division is one of the world’s foremost centers for the study of Hebrew and Yiddish materials. For more information on the division and its holdings, visit

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PR 12-178
ISSN 0731-3527

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