Composition of the collections

The library is housed in the monumental 'Esnoga' complex of the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam, where it has been a permanent resident of the complex since its in 1675. In 1889 former librarian David Montezinos donated his personal collection of manuscripts, books and prints to the library on condition that they would be accessible to the general public at least 2 days a week. The library has since been known as the 'Ets Haim - Livraria Montezinos'. In July 1998 the complete collection was placed on the exclusive list of 'Dutch protected collections'. This is a very unique honour that it shares only with the 'Librije' in Zutphen and the 'Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica' in Amsterdam.

The collections contain about 560 manuscripts dating from 1280 to the 20th century and about 30000 printed works dating from 1484 to the present day. Of the 20000 volumes, roughly 65% is printed in Hebrew. Amongst the printed works are 6 Hebrew incunabula, 450 Hebrew unica, about 400 unique Spanish and Portuguese printings and about 750 special event printings. Ets Haim also owns about 450 prints and some scores of choral music.

The collections reflect the 17th-century humanist ideal of documenting all areas of human endeavour and knowledge. All of the Jewish standard works are available in many editions as are: bibles, exegetical, hermenuetical, homelitical, legal and didactic works. There are some Christian works and besides Aramaic and Hebrew the library also holds works in Latin, Greek, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, English, Yiddish and Ladino.

The extensive collection of liturgical issues contains virtually all Dutch Jewish prayer books, and the variations in liturgical practice in various communities is extremely well documented.

The history of Jewish printing is well represented. From Eastern Europe to the Americas, from Northern Europe to Africa and from Portugal via the Levant to Cochin, a rich variety of books, bindings, materials and techniques can been seen in a veritable feast of classic typographic design.

History, grammar, rethoric, calligraphy, medicine, mystical lore and economics are all subjects that are represented in the collections. Unfortunately much teaching material has been lost through the simple wear and tear of use.