Sunday, February 20, 2005

First post

My friend Mobius suggested I start posting on Jewschool about the things that interest me. This is an attempt, to see whether I can actually come up with things like that.

My main field of interest is medieval Jewish religious literature. Mostly Halakhah, definitely not philosophy, but other specific topics are negotiable. Lately I've been looking at some of the topics that dominate the Jewish blogosphere. While I am intrigued by contemporary developments, I am not usually passionate about them. So don't look here for my take on the Zoo Torah scandal or political developments in the State of Israel or Yeshiva University, or wherever else some find the focal point of their existence.

One of the books I recently bought is the David Weiss Halivni festschrift, titled Netiot le-David. I haven't had the chance to read much of it yet. But just looking at the table of contents commends the book as a rare example of scholars from different institutions coming together in honour of someone.

[Update: The link to the table of contents of Netiot le-David doesn't seem to be working. Now it should link to the site of the publisher, and you can find the book there, along with other titles they have published. The book on the Italian Geniza is very interesting, in my opinion.]

Another new book, closer to my field, is Yaakov Spiegel's book, Amudim be-Toldot ha-Sefer ha-Ivri ( Chapters in the History of the Jewish Book). It was first published in 1996, focusing on glosses and glossators (Hagahot - see the name of this blog! - u-Magihim). That has now been revised, and a second, new volume deals with the process of writing the Jewish book.

Speigel says that in this book he deals with the second and third periods of Jewish publishing - manuscripts and early publishing. The first period was when the Jewish tradition was oral (a lot has been written about this fascinating topic. This is one good source), the fourth is offset printing and the fifth is the computer world. The different periods influence and illuminate each other. I'll try to illustrate this with an example I recently worked on.

R Isaiah ben Mali of Trani (southern Italy) wrote several books. One of them is his Tosafot on the Talmud. These tosafot are famous for the fact that they were apparently published in several different editions. Rid himself refers to different versions (in one place he refers to his fifth edition on a certain tractate), and on one or two tractates we actually possess two discrete editions. There is more to be said about this, and Spiegel's discussion is not very extensive. But it is especially fascinating in a time when authors can constantly update their work, often without leaving any traces for readers to pick apart.


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