Rose Rare Book Collection highlights at UD

Zevach Pesach Haggadah, the first printed commentary on the Haggadah, by Don Isaac Abravanel, published in Constantinople in 1505
Zevach Pesach Haggadah, the first printed commentary on the Haggadah, by Don Isaac Abravanel, published in Constantinople in 1505

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Faculty at the University of Dayton just experienced what it’s like to be scholarly kids in an academic candy store.

Members of their ranks selected more than 40 items to be displayed at UD from among thousands of rare books and manuscripts in the collection of Stuart Rose. Works on exhibit range from a first-century B.C.E papyrus scroll of the Book of the Dead to treatises by Galileo, Descartes and Kepler in the 1600s, a Shakespeare Second Folio from 1632, and numerous earth-changing ideas put forth in print in the Western world up to the 20th century.

For those with an appreciation of rare Judaic books, the exhibit includes Don Isaac Abravanel’s Zevach Pesach Haggadah, the first printed commentary on the Passover Haggadah, published in Constantinople in 1505, and a 1474 edition of 12th-century philosopher Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed.

Stuart Rose
Stuart Rose

The Rose Collection exhibit also features an original 1947 edition of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and a handwritten note by Frank, dated June 12, 1942.

But Rose — who serves as CEO, chairman of the board and director of Dayton-based REX American Resources Corp. — says he never set out to collect Judaic titles per se, but rather works by the world’s most eminent authors.

“I try to buy the greatest copies of the greatest books that were ever printed,” he says. “I also try to collect good manuscripts. I try to find the very high end. I have a lot of every religion’s manuscripts.”

Rose says he caught the rare book bug more than 20 years ago when he was at a Sotheby’s auction house.

“I didn’t really understand what rare books were, but I’ve learned and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s a great hobby.”

The exhibit with UD came about after Rose loaned the school his copy of the Coverdale Bible last year. Published in 1535, the Coverdale Bible is the first complete Modern English translation of the Bible and the first complete English translation in print.

“They enjoyed that book and they asked if they could do an exhibition and picked about 50 of my books,” he says. “They picked 50 that were important to them, mostly for academic reasons. They’re not necessarily what I would say are the 50 most valuable.”

1474 edition of Guide for  the Perplexed by 12th-century Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides
1474 edition of Guide for the Perplexed by 12th-century Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides

With a network of auction houses and dealers around the world keeping their eyes open for him, Rose says several acquisitions in his collection were hard-fought wins.

“I just bought A Tale of Two Cities (that) Dickens inscribed to George Elliott. It’s been a battle I’ve been working on for over a year to get it, but I think I got it as of today. We’ll see. You never know if you bought something until it comes in the mail.”

A native of New Orleans, Rose graduated from Emory University in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in business.

“I took most of my electives in English and went to England, and I had a humanities professor as an instructor that I was closest to,” he says.

Rose says he’d like to keep his collection intact for the long run.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with it eventually, but I enjoy it,” he says. “It’s a nice hobby because unlike tennis, my knees won’t get bad doing it. I would recommend it to anyone. It could be at any level, but in every field you can collect something.”

Imprints and Impressions: Milestones in Human Progress, Highlights from the Rose Rare Book Collection will be on exhibit from Sept. 30 through Nov. 9 at the University of Dayton Roesch Library. For more information, go to  

To read the complete October 2014 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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