May 17, 2022

Oh No! & Oy Vey! "How Did Israel’s National Library Give Away [Literally] a First-Edition Darwin?"

From Haaretz:

The board of directors of the National Library of Israel is appointing a committee to determine how books that were supposed to remain in the institution’s permanent collection were distributed to the general public in last month’s giveaway.

Among the dozens of items that mistakenly made their way into private hands were a Bulgarian translation of Sholem Aleichem’s “Tevye the Milkman” and a German-language first edition of Charles Darwin’s “The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals.”


A scholar in the humanities – one of the hundreds of people who attended the giveaway – scooped up dozens of books in the library’s core areas, about half of which were not in the National Library or any other library in Israel. They included the Bulgarian “Tevye,” published in 1949 by the Bulgarian Communist Party; a book on World War II and the Holocaust in Estonia; and a science book by Dr. Otto Warburg, a former president of the World Zionist Organization, signed by Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

In some cases, the National Library has just one copy of books taken by the academic – who asked that his name not be published – a violation of the institution’s policy of keeping three copies of volumes in its core areas. The Darwin book, published in 1872, is not in the National Library’s core areas, but it does have significant intellectual and monetary value.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.