Jewish Cultural History

Illustrated manuscript. Amsterdam, ca. 1750. 
[Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana]

Omer calendar scroll

This collection domain consists of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, which houses the majority of the collections of the University Library in the field of Jewish culture and history. The foundations for the library were laid by Leeser Rosenthal (1794–1868), who left a collection of some 6,000 volumes when he died. His heirs donated this collection to the City of Amsterdam in 1880.

Expansion of the library was funded through trusts provided by the family until the First World War, after which the university assumed the costs. The Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana has since developed from a German library of enlightenment to a general library on Jewish history and culture with works in all of the languages that Jews have used over the centuries. Today the library contains approximately 120,000 works including 1,000 manuscripts and around 80 archives.


The Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana is renowned as the largest collection of its kind on the European continent. The collection serves a large international public and there is intensive contact with libraries and researchers at the national and international levels. There is also collaboration at the international level, with participation in exhibitions and digitisation projects, for example, and there are close links with the Hebrew department and the Faculty of Humanities.


Collection profile

  • Medieval and post-medieval Hebrew manuscripts
  • Early Hebrew and Amsterdam-Jewish book printing
  • Sources relating to the Spanish/Portuguese Jewish Diaspora (Sephardi)
  • Dutch-Jewish history
  • Dutch-Jewish ephemerides
  • Sources of the (German) Jewish enlightenment
  • Modern secondary literature and magazines and journals in the field of Jewish cultural history

Important collections


  • Esslingen Machzor: Hebrew festival prayer book, finished on 12 January 1290 in Esslingen on the Neckar. Hs. Ros. 609.

  • Sefer Or Zarua: Hebrew legal code by Isaac ben Moses of Vienna, finished in Southern Germany around 1260. Hs. Ros. 3.

  • Sefer Mitzwot Katan: Hebrew legal code by Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil, finished on 10 June 1386, by Hannah bat Menahem Zion. Hs. Ros. 558.

  • Leipnik Haggadah: Hebrew prayer book for Passover, copied and illustrated by Joseph ben David of Leipnik (Moravia), finished in Altona, 1738. Hs. Ros. 382. 

  • Haggadah in Amsterdamse Letters: Hebrew prayer book for Passover, copied and illustrated by Jacob ben Judah Leib Shammash of Berlin, finished in Hamburg, 1741. Hs. Ros. 573.

Published by  Special Collections UvA

22 August 2014