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Bookplate of Elkan Nathan Adler

Dublin Core


Bookplate of Elkan Nathan Adler


Adler, Elkan Nathan, 1861-1946


This is the bookplate of Elkan Nathan Adler (1861-1946), an Anglo-Jewish author, lawyer, historian, and bibliophile. He is famous for being the first European to enter the Cairo Genizah and bringing more than 25,000 fragments back to England.

Adler collected over 4,500 manuscripts and more than 30,000 books. Much of his library was acquired during his travels all over the world, especially to Egypt and Persia. In 1923, Adler was forced to sell most of his collection to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Hebrew Union College after discovering his business partner's embezzlement.

Adler's bookplate features a coat of arms bearing the symbolic double-headed eagle, which traditionally represents the realms of religion and secularism. Above the coat of arms is a Hebrew phrase that contains the owner's first name. This phrase is from a liturgical hymn recited on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This phrase serves a number of purposes—it shows Adler’s passion for the Jewish religion and the Hebrew language and also cleverly emphasizes his ownership by including his first name in Hebrew, “Elhanan.”

Above this phrase is a pair of hands, symbolizing the high priesthood (or “Kohanim”) in Judaism and therefore reflecting the owner's descent from the biblical Aaron. The Latin phrase that appears on the side of the shield means "an eagle stirs her nest," taken from Deuteronomy 32:11.

The two books to the right of the shield have acronyms written on their spines which stand for "Law Reports: King's Bench Division" and "Law Reports: Chancery Division" and are meant to reflect the owner's occupation. There are also other symbols such as the Torah with the Jewish Star, which reinforce the author's Jewish identity, and the owl, which most likely symbolizes wisdom and a love of learning.

A globe on the far left, positioned to show the continents of Africa, Asia and Australia, reflects the owner’s interests in travel and specifically Israel and Egypt.

The symbol on the far right is a Jewish coin dating back to the period of the Jewish revolt against ancient Rome in the 7th century CE. This coin depicts a pomegranate surrounded by writing in paleo-Hebrew which translates to "Jerusalem the Holy." These coins were minted to emphasize the Jews’ independence from Rome. This coin is probably included to show Adler’s knowledge of Jewish history and again to emphasize the importance of his Jewish identity.

Photograph of Elkan Nathan Adler courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary.


Sandheim, May Kathleen




Digital Image: Washington University in Saint Louis




Hebrew, Latin, English






Sandheim, May Kathleen, “Bookplate of Elkan Nathan Adler,” WUSTL Digital Gateway Image Collections & Exhibitions, accessed April 21, 2024, http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/items/show/4344.