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The Weigle JANES Collection

The Weigle Judaica and Ancient Near Eastern Studies (JANES) Reading Room is located in the Van Pelt Library in room 401 East. Its non-circulating holdings support intensive, text-centered forms of critical scholarship. Significantly, the provenance of the core collection traces back to the personal libraries of some of the greatest scholars of the "Pennsylvania Tradition of Semitics" at the University of Pennsylvania, including Marcus Jastrow, the eminent Philadelphia rabbi and rabbinic lexicographer, and his son Morris Jastrow, Jr., the founder of Penn's Semitic languages program, a pioneering figure in the critical study of religion, and the Director of Penn's library from 1898 until his death 1921. The original collection was formally named "The Marcus Jastrow Memorial Library" on December 1, 1903, in memory of Morris' father who had died two months earlier. Bookplates bearing this inscription still can be found pasted on many of the current holdings.


In the following decades, the collection grew through the acquisition of specialized materials received from the library of Morris Jastrow, from James A. Montgomery and from the library of Ephraim Speiser. All three figures played central roles developing Penn's Semitic Studies programs. The collection was further enriched by the donation in 1998 of the library of Judah Goldin, the distinguished scholar of rabbinic literature. His enormous and heavily annotated collection, part of which is in the Weigle JANES Reading Room, is distributed throughout the Penn library system. The study room came to be known as the "Semitic Seminar Room", a designation already in use by 1927, and more recently has been called the Judaica/Ancient Near East Seminar room.


In 1999, thanks to a generous gift from David Weigle, W'69, the Library renovated the JANES reading room and adjacent seminar and group study rooms. The JANES space was transformed from a grim, concrete-walled area with dim lighting into a bright, glass-walled, airy space with wood finishes. The new rooms feature Thomas Moser furniture, new carrells, and a special computer terminal equipped with such indispensable digital databases as the Bar Ilan Responsa CD-ROM. In honor of its donor, these renovated areas of the Library have been renamed the Weigle Judaica and Ancient Near East Studies Reading Room and the Weigle Seminar and Teaching Suite.


The Weigle JANES collection provides essential resources for studying ancient Near Eastern, Biblical and Rabbinic literatures. The collection holds approximately 6,000 volumes. This is a NON-CIRCULATING collection, designed to enhance on-site use of related, critical research tools. It includes standard reference works, such as the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (CAD); Biblical and multi-lingual dictionaries; grammars; important facsimiles and transcriptions of Sumerian and Northwest Semitic primary sources; critical Biblical editions and commentaries; Tannaitic, Amoraic, Midrashic, Geonic, and Responsa literatures; sixty-nine scholarly journals, including thirty-nine currently received periodicals.


Shelving is provided for faculty to place circulating holdings on temporary reserve for their semester classes. For information about how to place books on temporary reserve in JANES, please contact the Rosengarten Reserve Room. Permanent additions to the Weigle JANES collection are vetted by a committee of faculty and library personnel. For information about how to suggest permanent additions to the collection, please contact the Curator of Judaica collections.