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Lost book about Hebrew returns to Jewish Museum in Prague

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Prague, Jan 10 (CTK) – A rare book from the 16th century dealing with Hebrew grammar, originally owned by the interwar Prague Jewish community from whose collections it disappeared, is returning to it now, Katerina Honskusova, from the Jewish Museum in Prague, told journalists on Wednesday.

A year ago, the U.S. auction house Kestenbaum put it up in an auction, but after a warning from the Jewish Museum in Prague, it withdrew it from its offer and agreed on its return with the Israeli owner.

The book will return to the Czech Republic on January 16 when Daniel Kestenbaum, director of the auction house, will hand it to Leo Pavlat, director of the Jewish Museum, Honskusova said.

The missed book about Hebrew grammar was written by Italian Jewish doctor Abraham ben Meir de Balmes.

In 1523, the book was published in Hebrew and Latin under the title Mikne Avram – Peculium Abrae by a well-known publisher from Venice, Daniel Bomberg.

At first, the book was owned by the library of the Prague Jewish community, as evidenced by the book number and ownership stamp. It was later owned by Ze’ev Ben-Haim from Galicia, who emigrated to Palestine in 1933.

In Israel, he worked as a lecturer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and president of the Academy of the Hebrew Language.

“It is not known whether Ben-Haim brought the priceless book along with him to Palestine in 1933 already or whether he bought it later,” Honskusova said.

After his death, the book was bought in 2013 by a young Israeli researcher, who requested anonymity.

He offered the book for sale in the auction room that placed it on its programme last March.

It was noticed by a librarian of the Jewish Museum during a routine check before the auction started.

“The item 60 was subsequently identified as a missing print from the original stock of the library of the Prague Jewish Community,” Honskusova said.

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