Sir Victor Blank endows Bodleian Libraries' Jewish and Yiddish curatorship

Anita Singh
·2-min read
Bodleian Library - Joe Daniel Price/Getty
Bodleian Library - Joe Daniel Price/Getty

Sir Victor Blank, the businessman and philanthropist, is to endow the curatorship of the Bodleian Libraries’ Hebrew and Yiddish collections.

The Oxford University post will be renamed The Victor Blank Curator of Hebraica and Judaica, while the lecture theatre in the Weston Library will also bear his name for a period of 25 years.

Sir Victor will endow the post jointly with the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, of which he was chairman of the trustees until recently.

The curator role is guardian of one of the most significant collections of Hebrew manuscripts in the world, alongside a collection of early Hebrew and Yiddish printed books.

Hebrew books were among the original endowment of the Bodleian and among the first to be listed in the library’s earliest catalogue in 1605. Highlights of the collections include illuminated manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, such as the 15th century Kennicott Bible in its original goatskin box-binding, and a fragment of Maimonides’ autograph draft of the Mishneh Torah from the Cairo Genizah.

Sir Victor, former chairman of Lloyds TSB, studied modern history at St Catherine’s College, Oxford.

He said: “My love and fascination with the Bodleian Library goes back to my undergraduate days. As a historian, I came to appreciate the uniqueness of the Bodleian, housing and preserving swathes of our written history in this country and across the world.

“The pre-eminent collection of Hebrew and Yiddish books (a collection as good as almost any in the world) requires love and care from a dedicated curator. I am delighted to be able, with the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, to secure that post for the future.”

Lord Jacob Rothschild said his family is “proud to be associated with this important initiative” which “will contribute to securing Jewish scholarship and offering access to unique manuscripts for generations to come”.

The current holder of the post is Dr César Merchán-Hamann. Projects include overseeing the Bodleian’s plans to digitise the entire Hebrew and Jewish collection.

Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, said: “I am delighted that this curatorship is now safeguarded for future generations. The Bodleian has treasured Hebrew books since its foundation more than 400 years ago, and we remain committed to preserving and making available these highly important collections.”

“This donation shows confidence in the Bodleian's world-class scholarship in Hebrew and Jewish studies, and will allow us to extend our work to share the richness of Jewish culture and learning with students, scholars and the general public across the globe. We are enormously grateful to Sir Victor Blank & to the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe for this tremendous gift."