Conference Proceeding: The Library of Matisyahu Strashun: A Study of Private and Public Book Collection and Dispersal

Most modern libraries with substantial Hebraica holdings were created through the acquisition of private collections either by purchase, donation, or fiat. This interplay between the private collector and library is a symbiotic and necessary one, ultimately furthering knowledge of the Hebrew book. Matisyahu Strashun was an avid collector of Hebraica in 19th century Vilna amassing a significant library. He bequeathed his library to the Vilna community after his death with instructions and capital to create a public library. His library has survived, while not completely intact, in remarkable condition, if in changed circumstances. Tracing his library’s journey, from Strashun’s collection efforts, the transformation into one of Vilna’s most important pre-World War II libraries, its survival through the war, and its status today, provides a window into the interplay between the public and private individual and each’s role in preserving and disseminating the Hebrew book.