Why Jewish Books and Libraries Matter with Joshua Teplitsky

Joshua Teplitsky joins us to discuss his book Prince of the Press and the broader issue of the history of Jewish books and book collecting. Prince of the Press is a fantastic book, and it opens up a great set of issues about the meaning of books and libraries in Jewish culture, the process of accumulating and transmitting Jewish learning over the generations, as well as how we understand Jewish life in early modern Europe in the widest terms.

Joshua Teplitsky is assistant professor of history at Stony Brook University. Prince of the Press, which tells the story of the Prague rabbi David Oppenheim and his library, is his first book, and it was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. Josh specializes in the history of the Jews in Europe in the early modern period and in the study of books and media, and is one of the leaders of the Footprints project which seeks to document the history of the movement of early printed Jewish books and manuscripts.

Prince of the Press is such a phenomenal book on many levels. It tells the story of David Oppenheim and his collection of books, so it’s a microhistory, telling history on a very personal scale. But the story of Oppenheim and his library, like all great microhistories, has something bigger to teach us about the nature of Jewish culture within early modern Europe, and about European book culture at large. What does it mean to collect books? How do we transmit knowledge, from person to person or from generation to generation, in terms of both information as well as physical terms? This book Prince of the Press helps us to think about all of those things and more.

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