The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Book Collections from the Kamianets-Podilskyi State Historical Museum: A Question of Provenance

Ms Nadia Ufimtseva

This presentation is based on the study of a collection of more than 500 printed Jewish books. According to my research, the majority of books have bookplates or handwritten notes. Different religious institutions (beit-midrash, beit-kneset, kloyz, yeshiva) or societies (hevrot), individual members of Jewish community are mentioned in bookplates.

However, the history of the formation of the book collection and its provenance become one of the most complicated research questions.

The books remained with their owners until the 1930s. The seizure and confiscation of property of Jewish religious communities, including literature, by the Soviet authorities took place in several stages. In Kamianets-Podilskyi in the 1920s, some of the buildings owned by the Jewish community gradually shifted to new users, becoming clubs, libraries, political schools, and so on. In 1935-1936, almost all prayer houses and synagogues were closed.

Unfortunately, according to archival documents, it is currently impossible to establish an exact list of confiscated property and its further distribution. According to the resolution of the All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee of the USSR "On the Central Archival Administration of the USSR" of January 25, 1928, Jewish books of no value were subject to transfer to the district archives. Therefore, the issue of preserving confiscated books remained at the discretion of these institutions. Many of the books were disposed of, discarded or simply disappeared during the confiscation process.

This paper presents the provenance research of the Jewish Book Collections from Kamianets-Podilskyi Museum; analyses of the Soviet policy and practices towards "Jewish books of no value"; regional and local peculiarities that had affected the preservation of the mentioned collection. In addition the presentation shows how the study of bookplates and marks on books helps to reveal some aspects of ownership of a certain books.


Keywords: Jewish printed books, Museum collection, archives, provenance, bookplates