Leeds University Library

New resource for Jewish Studies

Published Friday 23 June 2017

Porton collection image

Porton Collection now available for research

The Porton Collection is an outstanding resource for all aspects of the religion and culture of the Jewish people, covering theology, history, biography, art, travel and society, and including works in Hebrew, Yiddish and English.

The core collection was formed by Rabbi Moses Abrahams (1861-1919), minister at the Old Great Synagogue in Belgrave Street, Leeds, from 1886. After his death, his collection became the library of the United Hebrew Congregation. In 1938 the community presented the collection to Leeds City Libraries.

Joseph Porton himself now enters the story. Porton was born in Poland in the 1870s and was one of the many Jewish refugees from Tsarist Russia who made their mark on the life of the city of Leeds. Porton paid for the fitting-out of a room for the books at Sheepscar library, and in 1965 his own books were given to the collection by his son. Since that time Leeds City Libraries have continued to develop the collection. The University Library now has custody of the Porton Collection, and records are available in our online catalogue.

The earliest book in the collection is Sefer Me'amez koah ("Reinforcing Strength"), a collection of funeral orations by Moses ben Baruch Almosnino, published in Venice in 1588. Almosnino was rabbi of the congregation of Spanish Jews at Constantinople.

Menasseh ben Israel is best remembered for his key role in the re-admission of the Jews to England after centuries of banishment. We already hold a number of his works in the Roth Collection, to which we can now add his De resurrectione mortuorum (Amsterdam, 1636), a treatise on the resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the soul.

Another highlight is Uxor Ebraica ("The Jewish Wife"), a treatise on the Jewish law of marriage and divorce, by the English legal scholar and parliamentarian John Selden, whose political and religious views caused him to be imprisoned by Charles I. His reputation was clearly far-reaching - the Porton copy of this book was published in 1673 at Frankfurt an der Oder, in eastern Germany.

Items from the Porton Collection can be consulted by arranging a visit to the Special Collections Reading Room at the Brotherton Library.