Page 77 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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which he jotted down everything that interested him in his exten-
sive reading, stood him in good stead. We find him at work on the
book in the winter of 1773, while in Tunis. The fact that the
material was already in order explains how it was possible for him
“ to begin and finish” the book during the quarantine period (forty
days) that he was isolated before landing at Leghorn in 1774. I t
does not, of course, mean, as the casual reader of the
Maagal Tob
might infer, that he wrote it
de novo
in forty days. Since he did
not have a clearly conceived plan of his book in advance, but
permitted it to grow as his material accumulated, it was inevitable
that the book be highly repetitious. Azulai was aware of this
and apologizes, “Some of this I have written before; never-
theless, wherever David repeats himself it is because of some new
A distinctly novel feature of the bibliographical aspect of the
book, and of the method in which Azulai was a pioneer, is that of
the excursus, in which he presents an historical survey of a partic-
ular type of literature. These excursi, the first efforts in this
direction attempted in Jewish literary history, afford a notable
illustration of Azulai’s sense for historical development. The first
modern study of the various schools of the Tosaphists — that of
Leopold Zunz in his
Gottesdienstliche Vortraege
— is largely based
on Azulai’s excursus on the subject, where he traces the authorship
of the various collections of
and their relationship to one
another. He also seeks to identify the authorship and editorship
of the
to be found in the printed editions of the Talmud.
Quotations in the works of early authorities that indicate the
authorship of various
collections are carefully noted.
Further, he compares the printed version of the
with the
written manuscripts. This dissertation may still be consulted with
profit by students of the subject.
A brief description of some of the lengthier articles of this type
may be not without interest. Under the heading
, Azulai
lists the various manuscripts of the Talmud he has seen and
indicates how their readings clear up old difficulties in the under-
standing of the Talmudic text. In the same article, he discusses
early Hebrew presses and the dates and places of publication of a
few of the earliest printed Hebrew books. Under the heading
, he lists by title all the printed
and those
to which reference is made in various later
works. A favorite subject, and one to which he contributed a
book (
Yair Ozen
), is Talmudic methodology. He lists in chronol-
ogical order, under the caption
Klale ha-Shas
(Rules of the Tal-
mud), no less than twenty books on the subject.
The value and interest of
Shem ha-Gedolim
are not exhausted