Some Preliminary Observations on the First Published Translation of Rashi's Commentary on the Pentateuch in Yiddish (Cremona, 1560)

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Abstract

In 1560, an Old Yiddish translation of the liturgical Hebrew Bible was published in Cremona at the printing house of Vincenzo Conti. The translation was based on that of Paul Aemilius (Ausburg, 1544) and was accompanied by the first printed Yiddish translation of Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch prepared by Judah ben Moses Naphtali. An analysis of a number of chapters of the translation, which is an abridgement, shows that the translator recognized the difficulty of transmitting many of Rashi's Hebrew word plays, grammatical insights, and scriptural proofs to an audience that was not knowledgeable in Hebrew, and that he therefore omitted many of these aspects of Rashi's commentary. Moreover, the need to make the work attractive to a broad audience that already had alternatives for their reading pleasure, such as Yiddish language epic stories, led the translator to focus on legends and legal pronouncements. The translator took some liberties and added mystical ideas that he filched from other sources and placed into Rashi's comments without ever acknowledging the additions. An appendix explains why the colophon and frontispiece of the text were printed on the same day, and deals with the transfer of woodcuts between printing houses in Venice, Cremona, and Riva di Trento.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-342
Number of pages38
JournalHebrew Union College Annual
Volume86
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Printing ; Jewish literature ; Language translation ; Bible ; Typographic fonts ; Rabbis ; Pentateuch ; Books ; Torah ; Frontispieces ; Bible. Pentateuch. Yiddish -- Versions -- History ; Rashi, 1040-1105. Perush Rashi ʻal ha-Torah ; Rashi, 1040-1105 -- Translations into Yiddish -- History and criticism ; Printing -- Italy -- Cremona -- History

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