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Yiddish Collections

There is no single Yiddish collection in the YIVO Library. Rather, the library's 40,000 Yiddish-language titles are scattered throughout the library's other collections. Together, they comprise the largest collection of Yiddish books in the world.

In 1990, The Yiddish Catalog and Authority File of the YIVO Library, in five volumes, was published by G. K. Hall. Included in it are reproductions of the library's entire Yiddish author-title card catalog and the catalog of its microfilmed periodicals.

Virtually all of the major works of Yiddish literature are represented in the YIVO Library, as well as many obscure and forgotten titles. The library has copies of many early editions by Mendele Moykher Sforim, I. L. Peretz, and Sholem Aleichem.

One genre of Yiddish literature that has been singled out for special attention in recent years is children's literature. Some of the most notable Jewish artists of the 20th century contributed illustrations to Yiddish children's books. Among these were the avant-garde Soviet artists Issachar Ber Ryback, Joseph Tchaikov, and El Lissitzky. A microfiche collection, Yiddish Children's Literature from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, containing over 1,000 titles, was co-published by YIVO and Clearwater Publishing Company in 1988.

Over the years, the library has acquired the personal libraries of many outstanding Yiddish literary and cultural figures, including the critics Shmuel Niger and Kalman Marmor, the folklorist Y. L. Cahan, the novelist Joseph Opatoshu, the historian Shlomo Bickel, the essayist Chaim Zhitlowsky, the bibliographer Ephim Jeshurun, the dramatist Nahum Stutchkoff, the theater archivist Sholem Perlmutter, and the YIVO scholars Mendl Elkin (YIVO's Head Librarian from 1938-1962), Shlomo Noble, and Max Weinreich.

Personal libraries acquired by YIVO include:

  • The Sholem Perlmutter Collection
    500 Yiddish dramas (many of them containing written stage directions in the margins)
  • The Max Weinreich Library
    4,000 volumes, many of them linguistic publications used in the preparation of Weinreich's History of the Yiddish Language (YIVO, 1973).