Academic journal article German Quarterly

Basel Und der Jiddische Buchdruck (1557-1612): Kulturexport in der Frühen Neuzeit

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Basel Und der Jiddische Buchdruck (1557-1612): Kulturexport in der Frühen Neuzeit

Article excerpt

Sidorko, Clemens P. Basel und der jiddische Buchdruck (1557-1612): Kulturexport in der Frühen neuzeit. Basel: schwabe, 2014. 487 pp. sfr. 58.00 (hardcover).

for a brief period and on a rather more modest scale, Basel functioned for early yiddish as had aldo Manuzio's Venice for Greek literature, becoming key not only to the production and distribution of books of a particular language and cultural identity, but even of the survival of many of the tradition's books. in Basel, thirty-seven yiddish books were printed, including descriptions of the language by Christian humanists, collections of liturgical hymns (zmires), prayer collections (birkat ha-mazon), supplication prayers (tkines), customals (minhogim), behavioral guides, midrashic epic, fables, edifying prose narrative, and mystical literature. these books witness not just a transformative moment in Jewish cultural history, but also the productive and conflictual interactions between Christian and Jewish culture during this period of reformation and humanism. the development of yiddish printing transformed the intellectual culture of ashkenazic Jews by providing a broad range of genres to a populace in its native tongue, making available a knowledge corpus theretofore closed to hebrew-illiterates.

the book under review includes four parts: first, an orientation in ashkenazic culture, book culture, and Basel as a book publishing center; second, a description of the Basel yiddish corpus; third, a discussion of the authors, typesetters, proofreaders, correctors, and editors involved in the production of the books, as well as the cultural significance of the industry; finally, a bibliography and catalog of the corpus, with facsimile title pages. the goal and method is to comprehend the focal phenomenon as an example of a "communications circuit," that is, book publishing as a communicative system that both depends on cultural, political, economic, and social conditions and simultaneously affects those conditions.

the first quarter of the book is squandered on multiple dissertation-like "background" chapters (e.g. a primer of Jewish culture; the origins of the yiddish language), in which the author frequently overgeneralizes or offers patently inaccurate information. …

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