What was it about books that fascinated Salman Schocken? Apart from the contents, the book’s external appearance was also important to him: the type of print, the paper, the cover and the format, because in his eyes they were all a testimony to the time at which the books were printed.
For five decades he assembled a Judaica and Hebraica Collection, which formed the centre of his library. It was above all, original and rare books that Schocken wanted to own, such as first editions, the earliest prints and manuscripts and all in the best technical and artistic quality. Thus, among others, 100 incunabulums, early books and cradle books dating from the time before 1500 and the most important handwritten documents from Judaism belonged to his collection.
Schocken acquired the most valuable piece in his collection, the Nuremberg Machsor with 1.042 parchment pages piece by piece until 1951. The writing belongs in his collection of Medieval illuminated Hebrew prayer and biblical manuscripts.
The Nuremberg Machsor is the most important prayer book of the Jewish faith and was kept in Nuremberg Town library from 1499 onwards after the Jews were driven out of the town. It is now thought to be worth 2 to 3 million US dollars and the Machsor is now kept in the Jerusalem National Library, but can be viewed online.
So what became of Schocken’s extensive collection? He donated a large part of his 100 incunabulas to the Jerusalem national and university library early on. His Judaica and Hebraica collection is in the Schocken library and can be used for research purposes today. Both collections are therefore the last evidence of Schockens’ attitude of mind, his avid collecting and his passion. All other parts were dispersed and auctioned off.