David Simonsen: Rabbi, scholar, bibliophile and philantropist

Last update: 08-07-2012 12:14 PM

Background, collections and significance for the Judaica Collection

Chief Rabbi, Professor David Simonsen (1853-1932), whose private library and personale archives were acquired by The Royal Library in 1932, was through more than sixty years a central figure in Jewish Copenhagen.

His private library, with its app. 25,000 printed volumes -  in Hebrew, Yiddish and Western languages - on Jewish topics, was supplemented by a collection of periodicals, comprising some 500 titles. Some of the works are known to exist in only few copies; that the collection as a whole was not damaged in the turmoil of World War II, makes it, in an European perspective, very rare.  It forms the backbone of the Judaica Collection. All titles are recorded in REX (The Royal Library's OPAC).

Apart from the printed works, the collection of David Simonsen held also a collection of app. 190 manuscript volumes. These volumes, covering some 15 languages and 20 countries of origin, are available as digital facsimiles (The David Simonsen Manuscripts). For more information about the collection and the digital facsimiles, see The David Simonsen Manuscripts - an introduction.

The content of the archives is an indication to David Simonsen's position, not only in Danish cultural life, but also in the international scholarly world. His exchange of letters with rabbinical colleagues, shows him to have been in contact with both the religious and political developments, and his scientific correspondence gives an insight into scholarly debates within the study of Judaism, Christianity ans Islam, from the late 1870's until Simonsen's death in 1932. His extensive philantropic involvment in Denmark and abroad are also evident from the many letters to, and from, organisations and individuals alike, none of which seems to have gone unnoticed. The letters are successively being made available as digital facsimiles (strating April 2011) - for the yet undpublished parts of the coreespondence, see the Correspondent list (2006).

Last, but not least: the picture, of which a part only is shown at the top of this page, can be seen in its entirety here (PDF).