Famed even in his own lifetime for his vast erudition and single-minded devotion to study, Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer (1720-1797)—better known as the Vilna Gaon—became after his death a symbol of old-fashioned learning and piety. A bookbinding from a volume of the Bible that once belonged to the Gaon was recently put on auction in Jerusalem, as the Jerusalem Post reports:
As proof of its . . . origin, an antique slip of paper glued to the inner binding attests, “Tanakh studied by the teacher and master of Israel, the pious Vilna Gaon, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing.” Additionally, the inside paper lining of the back of the binding states the name of the owner: “Rabbi Yaakov Moshe, grandson of the Gaon.”
[Thus], this 18th-century Tanakh was apparently bequeathed by the Vilna Gaon to his grandson Yaakov Moshe of Slonim, son of Rabbi Avraham, the son of the Vilna Gaon, who was a prominent Torah scholar who toiled to edit and publish his grandfather’s legacy.
[T]here are very few remaining items known to have belonged to the Vilna Gaon or even to have been touched by his hands. Among the extant items is his set of the Talmud with his personal annotations.
As the Gaon did not write for publication, much of what are now known as his commentaries were in fact the annotations he wrote in the margins of his books, brought to the public posthumously by his sons. Most of his other works were manuscripts located among his effects after his death.