The collection was assembled by Jack Lunzer, an industrial diamond merchant from Britain, who previously sought to sell it, but with stipulations that the library only be sold as a whole and kept available for scholars. Lunzer also stipulated that the buyer must himself agree not to break up the collection through subsequent sales.Background here and links.
But Lunzer is now 91 and suffers from dementia. And over several years the library’s trustees, who now control the collection, were unable to obtain the price they sought for it while maintaining Lunzer’s stipulations. They are consequently moving to sell off some of the rarest and highest-priced books individually.
Scholars had earlier taken reassurance from Lunzer’s original conditions, which guaranteed them and those who rely on their research continued access to the collection. It’s been available to scholars since it has been at Sotheby’s. Now, some are deeply saddened.
“It would be a terrible loss to the Hebrew book lore to have the rest of the printed book collection dispersed,” said Brad Sabin Hill, the curator at the I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection at George Washington University. “I would consider that to be unfortunate.”
The Library’s trustees defend their decision to sell some individual books and manuscripts and override Lunzer’s stipulations as an effort to make the rest of the Library more affordable to sell as a whole. Though there has been great interest over the years, the collection as a whole proved too expensive and expansive for both private buyers and institutions. Margaret Rothem, Lunzer’s oldest daughter, said that Lunzer had been informed of the trustees’ decision, though he was now unable to meaningfully participate in it.
David Redden, the chairman of Sotheby’s book and manuscripts department, said all the money made from the auction will go to the trust. But he didn’t know how the trustees would spend or allocate the funds once the library was sold off, or whether the trust owned other collections toward which the funds might go. Efforts to reach members of the trust’s board were unsuccessful.
Friday, December 11, 2015
More on the breakup and auction of the Valmadonna Library
THE FORWARD: World's Largest Collection of Judaica Broken Up and Sold — Against Owner's Wishes (Britta Lokting). Excerpt: