Reuchlin/Pfefferkorn Debate: The Rare Book Collection of Frank L. Herz

Reuchlin, Johann. Augenspiegel (1511).

“The Rare Book Collection of Frank L. Herz” focuses on the famous Renaissance controversy between the Christian Hebraist Johannes Reuchlin, who introduced the study of Hebrew to Germany, and the anti-Jewish agitator Johannes Pfefferkorn, who was trying to lobby for the destruction of all Jewish books. Many of the 109 books were published in the early 16th century (the earliest in 1501), but some commentaries/reprints date from the 17th century. This controversy was one of the earliest public international debates about who controls access to information and had a substantial influence on the events which led to the Reformation. The core document in the collection is Reuchlin’s “Augenspiegel,” one of the earliest treatises against anti-Semitism and intolerance and an advocacy of humanism. Frank L. Hertz (1908-2006), a passionate collector of Renaissance books, assembled this collection to write a manuscript on the life and thoughts of Johannes Reuchlin and was particularly interested in the question of how Reuchlin defended Jewish rights and fought against the anti-Semitism of the Christian church. The German historian Dr. Sibylle Quack inherited the collection from Frank L. Hertz and donated it to the Library of the Leo Baeck Institute. Private digitization funds were used to digitize 25 seminal 16th-century texts from this collection.



Contact: Renate Evers, Director of Collections, at