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Miscellanies: The 'Gaster Papers'

Trude Levi

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The 'Gaster Papers' TRUDE LEVI The Gaster collection, which was first de? posited on permanent loan by the Trustees? chosen from the members of the Gaster family ?was in 1974 donated to University College London. It is housed in the Mocatta Library and comprises the papers of the late Dr. Moses Gaster (1856-1939). In February 1973 a Guide to the Gaster Papers was produced, describing the contents and the exact physical location of the papers, as well as the system of their organisation and storage. The material contains incoming, and copies of outgoing, mail between 1874 and 1939, as well as his original letters, notes, manuscripts, illuminated certificates, photographs, press cuttings, posters, notices of lectures, circulars, and even builders' bills, New Year greetings, condolences, visiting cards, a collection of unwritten picture postcards, and Victoriana in print that would delight the heart of a re? searcher in that field. The items, where the date was available or could be established, are arranged in strictly chronological order. The Rumanian, the Hebrew, and the un? dated material has caused considerable dating problems. It amounted approximately to one quarter of the correspondence. The change? over to the Gregorian calendar, though intro? duced in Rumania, was not often adhered to. Therefore the following steps were taken: when both dates were available the latter one (usually twelve days later) was noted; when no date appeared on the letter, but there was an envelope available with a postmark, the post? mark date was accepted. This was the case even if the letter had a date but the postmark showed the twelve days' difference. Where only one date appeared, and therefore there was no way of establishing which calendar had been used, this was accepted for the chronology. The Hebrew dating presented an even more challenging problem. The normal Jewish calendar date, for which tables for conversion are available, has not caused difficulties. How? ever, a great number of Dr. Gaster's cor? respondents used other methods: the dating was a perfect vehicle for them to show off their combined knowledge of the Old Testament and the numerical values of the Hebrew alphabet. There is no end to the inventiveness of a Tal mudic scholar! Since the handwritten Hebrew words taken out of their context and without vowels are not always quite legible and are therefore often misleading, they do complicate the life of the archivist trying to solve the secrets of a letter's date. Material which is completely undated, or where the date could not be established, has been arranged in alphabetical order of the correspondents' names. The subjects contained in the 'Gaster Papers' are as follows: Rabbinica, Judaica, Philology, Slavonic and Oriental studies, Folk? lore, Gypsy-lore, the Samaritans, Zionism, Social problems: refugees, schools, charities, etc., the Samaritan, the Arabic, and the Hebrew lettering of the typewriter as well as a typewriter for the blind; Rumanian: Jewry, folklore, schoolbooks, and education in general and linguistics in particular; family matters. The collection is in ten languages. Most researchers in any of the specialised subjects mentioned above will probably find this collection rewarding. However, the fact that practically everything has been kept with? in the span of 65 years of a life so varied and active as that of the prolific polymath Dr. Moses Gaster makes this collection a real treat for the sociologist. The collection is now in the process of being catalogued and indexed. Up to date the material dated between 1874 and June 1897 of the part of the correspondence which in the 'Guide' comes under the heading of 'Mail received by Moses Gaster from "strangers" ' has been catalogued. (The term 'strangers' has been used in the 'Guide' for all correspondents who do not qualify as 'family' or 'relations'.) 252</page></plain_text>