Marx, Alexander

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MARX, ALEXANDER (1878–1953), historian, bibliographer and librarian. Born in Elberfeld, Germany, Marx grew up in Koenigsberg (East Prussia). His studies were interrupted by a year in a Prussian artillery regiment where he excelled in horsemanship. Later he studied at the University of Berlin and at the *Rabbiner-Seminar (Berlin), marrying in 1905 Hannah the daughter of D.Z. *Hoffmann, rector of the Seminar. In Berlin, he was influenced by Moritz Steinschneider. In 1903 Marx accepted Solomon Schechter's invitation to teach history at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and be its librarian.

His mastery of the materials of history and of languages became proverbial. He published articles in many languages and was at home in classical and Semitic languages. Marx contributed monographs and articles to journals on a wide variety of subjects, published two volumes of collected essays (Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (1944); Essays in Jewish Biography (1947)), and with Max L. *Margolis wrote A History of the Jewish people (1927, 19622). This pioneering work, stressing economic and social life, organization and legal status, offers the general reader a soundly researched, authoritative, and objective Jewish history in one volume. Marx amassed a private collection of 10,000 books. The jts library on his arrival in 1903 contained 5,000 volumes and 3 manuscripts. At his death it possessed 165,000 books and over 9,000 Hebrew, Samaritan, Aramaic, and Yiddish manuscripts, comprising the largest Judaica collection in the world. Marx's ability to determine a manuscript's age merely by looking at it was legendary. His annual reports of the library's growth, containing a detailed description of materials acquired, were eagerly awaited by bookmen and scholars.

In 1926 Marx was elected to the Medieval Academy of America; he served as president of the American Academy for Jewish Research (1931–33), president of the Alexander Kohut Memorial Foundation, vice president of the American Jewish Historical Society, and member of the publications committee of the Jewish Publication Society of America.

His sister, Esther, married S.Y. *Agnon.

[Morris Epstein]

His brother moses (1885–1973) was also a bibliographer and librarian. Best known for his contributions to the field of Hebrew incunabula and 16th-century Hebrew printing, he was a founder of the Soncino Gesellschaft and a Berlin publisher. He issued, inter alia, bibliophile editions of early works by his brother-in-law S.Y. Agnon, and co-edited with Aron Freimann in the 1920s the Thesaurus Typographiae Hebraicae Saeculi xv. In 1926 he went to the United States and joined the staff of the Hebrew Union College Library in Cincinnati. Retiring as head cataloger in 1963, he served briefly as curator of rare books and then settled in Israel. Much of Marx's research in early Jewish printing remained unpublished.

[Stanley F. Chyet]


Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume, 2 vols. (Eng. and Heb., 1950), 481–501, incl. bibl.; A.S. Halkin, in: ajyb, 56 (1955), 580–8; Festschrift fuer A. Freimann (1935), 91–96; Gershon Soncino's Wanderyears in Italy (1936), index; Sefer ha-Yovel li-Khevod A. Marx (1943), 1–10 (introd.).