Monday, 13 June 2016


SHMUEL VINER (1860-March 1929)
            He was born in Borisov, Byelorussia, to a father who was head of a yeshiva.  He received a stringently religious education.  From his youth he evinced an interest in bibliographic work, and at the age of ten he compiled a catalogue of the religious texts in his father’s library and all the synagogue study halls in the city.  In 1887 he was invited by the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg to bring order to the Yiddish and Hebrew library of the Asiatic Museum.  He contributed most to the compilation of the celebrated collection of books of the museum’s patron Moyshe-Arye-Leyb Fridland (1925-1899), and when Fridland in 1892 gave away the Asiatic Museum, Viner proceeded to publish a scholarly catalogue of it under the title: Kehilat moshe arye-leib fridland, reshimat kol hasefarim haivrim, nidpasim vekitve-yad, hanimtsaim baasupat fridland beotsar museum haaziati shel haakademiya harusit lamadaim, meet shmuel viner (Collection of Moshe Arye-Leyb Fridland, a listing of all the Hebrew books, published and in manuscript, extant in the Fridland Collection in the treasury of the Asiatic Museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences, by Shmuel Viner).  This Kehilat moshe includes not only the publications that were found in the Asiatic Museum but also many others, and it contains rich and diverse bibliographic material.  The following volumes of it were published: vol. 1, “alef” (St. Petersburg, 1893), 126 pp. (in quarto); vol. 2, “bet” (St. Petersburg, 1895), pp. 128-223; vol. 3, “gimel, dalet” (St. Petersburg, 1897), pp. 226-315; vol. 4, “he, vav, zayin” (St. Petersburg, 1902), pp. 320-449; vol. 5, “ḥet, tet” (St. Petersburg, 1904), pp. 451-559; vol. 6, “yod” (St. Petersburg, 1918), pp. 564-630; vol. 7, “kaf” (St. Petersburg, 1918), pp. 632-56; vol. 8, “lamed” (Moscow-Leningrad, 1936), 658-89—this last volume was published under the editorship of Yoysef Bender and remained incomplete.  The catalogue was assembled in Hebrew alphabetical order of the title of the works and included a fair number of works in Judeo-German and Yiddish.  The prefaces to each of the volumes of the catalogue are of particular scholarly value, as is the publication: Reshimat hagadot pesa (Listing of Haggadahs for Passover), a list of Passover Haggadahs which were published over the years 1500-1900; in it are cited 884 Haggadahs, among them a great number with the note “translation into Yiddish” or “Judeo-German.”  Also in the catalogue is a list of the Yiddish song collections in the Asiatic Museum, published as an appendix to Ginzburg and Marek’s anthology, Yidishe folkslider in rusland (Yiddish folksongs in Russia) (St. Petersburg, 1901), as well as in the form of a separate publication.  Of immense significance for research into the history of Jews in Poland and Russia is Viner’s work, Daat kedoshim (Thoughts of saints) (St. Petersburg, 1897-1898).  Viner was also the first to publish the medieval manuscript Posek haḥerem she harav yaakov polak (The excommunication order of Rabbi Yaakov Pollack) (St. Petersburg, 1896), 86 pp., with an appendix of a short biographical sketch of one hundred Italian rabbis.  Viner also left unpublished: (a) a thorough bibliographical listing of all ever published books, in Hebrew and in Yiddish, with a numbering of all editions of each book and a description of the differences between on edition and the next; (b) the history of Jewish publishing houses, particularly in Russia and in Poland.  From his earliest youth, he was collecting Jewish books, and he accumulating a truly valuable library which in 1909 already contained 10,000 Hebrew and 4,000 Yiddish volumes.  He also amassed an extremely rich collection of Yiddish and Hebrew leaflets (in 1909 their number was approaching 4,000), appeals, party proclamations, and entreaties.  This collection and his entire, splendid library are now in the possession of the Lubavitch Library in Brooklyn, New York.  Viner died in Soviet Russia.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; obituary, in Pinkes, amerikaner opteyl fun yivo (Records from the American division of YIVO) (New York) 2.1 (1929), pp. 95-96; Al. Marks, in Hadoar (New York) (April 12, 1929).
Zaynvl Diamant

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