Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mendelssohn's Chumash reviewed in an 18th century English journal

In line with my principle that you never know when and where you'll come across something quite interesting, below is a review* from 1784 of the famous Liber Tramitum Pacis. What, not famous? I meant the famous ספר נתיבות שלום והוא חיבור כולל המשת הומשי התורה עם תיקון סופרים ותרגום אשכנזי ובאור, ie, Moses Mendelssohn's Bi'ur.

As you can see, the review is in fact a review of the introduction to the Bi'ur, the אור לנתיבה. It's a factual recounting of what the contents are about, with merely one line critical of its essentially traditionalist approach: "Mr. M. repeats some assertions long since supposed to have been confuted [by modern Bible scholarship]."

I must confess that I can't quite figure out one thing: was the introduction in front of him the familiar Hebrew version, or was it some sort of Latin translation that I am unaware of? As you can see, when he cites in he does so in Latin. Although this is confusing to me, perhaps the simple explanation is that the reviewer translated it into Latin himself for the quotation. Not wishing to quote Hebrew for readers who may not have understood it, but still wishing to set the text apart in a scholarly language other than the vernacular, Latin would serve well for an audience which would certainly understand it. It may have been something so simple as the publisher not possessing a good case of Hebrew fonts.

* In (A New review: with literary curiosities and literary intelligence v. 6 -- if on your screen a chunk of text does not appear, click here to see what fills in the blank.)

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