Adler, Elkan Nathan

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ADLER, ELKAN NATHAN (1861–1946), Anglo-Jewish bibliophile, collector, and author. Adler, the son of Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus *Adler, was a lawyer by profession and had unusual opportunities to travel under favorable conditions and to build up a remarkable library. He was among the first persons to realize the importance of the Cairo Genizah. He visited Egypt in 1888 and 1895–96 and brought back approximately 25,000 fragments from the Genizah. His library ultimately included about 4,500 manuscripts of which he published a summary Catalogue of Hebrew Manuscripts in the Collection of E.N. Adler (1921). He also had a collection of some 30,000 printed books in Judaica and in general fields. In order to make good the embezzlements of a business associate he sold his library in 1923 to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York and the duplicates of the printed books (including many incunabula) to the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, thus helping to raise both of these libraries to positions of significance. By an agreement made at that time, the manuscripts that he subsequently collected passed after his death to the Jewish Theological Seminary. Adler's published writings were mainly based on his travels and on materials in his own collection. Among them are About Hebrew Manuscripts (1905), a collection of bibliographical essays; A Gazetteer of Hebrew Printing (1917); Jews in Many Lands (1905); Auto de Fé and Jew (1908); History of the Jews of London (1930); Jewish Travellers (1930, repr. 1966); and articles on the Samaritans and on the Egyptian and Persian Jews. Adler played an active role in English-Jewish communal affairs, especially as regards educational and overseas matters, and was an early member of the Hovevei Zion in England. His personal archives are at the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.


Essays… E.N. Adler (jhsem, 4–5 (1942–48), includes his bibliography); Register of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (1923); jc (May 4, 1923, Sept. 20, 1946); United Synagogue Recorder, 3 (1923); E.C.R. Marmorstein, Scholarly Life of E.N. Adler (1962); M. Ettinghausen, Rare Books and Royal Collections (1966).

[Cecil Roth]