Books Like Sapphires

From the Library of Congress Judaica Collection

Ann Brener

Books Like Sapphires spotlights selections from the Library of Congress’s storied Hebraic collection. Tracing the history of Judaica collecting in the twentieth-century United States, the book showcases varied works, telling their stories alongside vibrant color images. Many presented for the first time, these include a unique manuscript about a betrothal scandal in Renaissance Crete, an illustrated Esther Scroll, a poem from 1477 celebrating the new technology of printing; amusing rhymed couplets in 16th-century Padua; and the Washington Haggadah. Engaging and accessible, Books Like Sapphires celebrates these works as well as the history of Jewish philanthropy and the patrons whose foresight helped build an important collection of Hebraic arts and culture.  

This book also tells the story of the patrons and collectors, first among them Jacob Schiff, as well as archivists and curators, who made the storied Judaica archive at the Library of Congress the precious resource that it is today. 

This publication was made possible through the generosity of the Martin J. Gross Family Foundation.

Cover Image of Books Like Sapphires: From the Library of Congress Judaica Collection
Cloth: $50
ISBN-13: 9781684581986
Pages: 272 | Size: 9 in. x 11 in.
Date Published: May 16, 2024

A book that is fresh and compelling, a total pleasure to read.

Marc Michael Epstein

Vassar College


  • An introduction to the field through the lens of a particular collection, exceptionally readable and well-presented. A book that is fresh and compelling, a total pleasure to read.

    Marc Michael Epstein
    Vassar College, Author of Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts
  • A well written and interesting view on a selection of Hebraic rara. A beautiful and highly useful means of communicating the treasures that are known only to a few scholars to a wide, interested public.

    Katrin Kogman-Appel
    University of Münster, Author of Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain: Biblical Imagery and the Passover Holiday

About the Author

Ann Brener served as the Hebraic Specialist at the Library of Congress from 2009-2022. Prior to that she taught Medieval Hebrew Poetry at Ben-Gurion University in Israel and published two books on the subject, Judah Halevi and His Circle of Hebrew Poets in Granada and Isaac ibn Khalfun: A Wandering Hebrew Poet of the Eleventh Century. She lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

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