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The fascinating story of the creation and development of this unique collection is matched only by the collection's importance as a resource of primary material for research in the social sciences, the humanities, and even the exact sciences. With over five and a half thousand leading Jewish personalities represented in their original handwriting, Abraham Schwadron's autograph collection is more than just the first Jewish Who's Who. The inscribed visiting cards, literary manuscripts, handwritten letters, and even musical scores are all evidence of a Jewish social milieu and cultural enterprise that stretches from the sixteenth century to the present day. The collection is a written record of the history of the Jewish people as it unfolded. No less dramatic is the man behind the collection, who from his youth in Galicia decided he would build a national Jewish autograph collection for the Jewish people and bring it to Jerusalem. The National Library of Israel is presently working to make this whole collection accessible to the public, first by rendering the collection searchable through the Library's online catalogue and then by digitizing the entire collection of autographs.
This article traces the history of the collection, introduces the intriguing figure of Abraham Schwadron and his rationale for building the collection, and reveals the many ways that the collection's rich and fascinating potential can be used as a resource of original source material. At the end of the article there is brief reference to the National Library of Israel's project for digitizing the collection.
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