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The David Hailperin Collection

Image of a Hebrew manuscript from the Hailperin Collection on display.
06 October 2023

Born in Bucharest in 1814, Dr David Hailperin served as a rabbi there for several years before living in Turkey, where he obtained his medical qualification. He moved to England in the 1840s and worked as both a merchant and a clairvoyant who claimed magical powers, reflecting his lifelong fascination with esoteric mysticism.

Hailperin immigrated to Australia in 1855 and practised as a physician in Melbourne and in Bendigo, where he died from pneumonia. He is buried in the Jewish section of Bendigo Cemetery.

During his eventful life and worldwide travels, he assembled a remarkable collection of around 160 books and manuscripts, which he brought with him to Melbourne in 1855.

An eccentric figure, he divided opinion and struggled financially. Not long before his death in 1860, he deposited his books with a pawnbroker to secure a loan of £10. The Rev. Isaac Pulver purchased them, and in 1864 he sold the collection to this library.

The Library’s then-president, Redmond Barry, was clearly aware of the books’ importance, as he went to the step of including them in the 1865 catalogue in Hebrew, which would have involved specialist typesetting, an uncommon skill in colonial Melbourne.

Comprising codes, responses and commentaries on Jewish religious law, and also works on Kabbalah and mysticism, the David Hailperin Collection of manuscripts and early printed Jewish books is internationally recognised for its rarity and significance.

– Anna Welch, Principal Librarian, History of the Book and Arts

Image: Naphtali ben Jacob Elhanan Bacharach (Active 17th century), Sefer ʻEmeḳ ha-melekh (The King’s Valley) (Amsṭerdam, 5408 [1647 or 1648]), David Hailperin Collection, RARESF 181.3 EL3S. Photograph: Teagan Glenane.