Page 98 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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B y J
o sh u a
F THE handful of men among Steinschneider’s contem­
poraries in Jewish learning — S. J. Rapoport, Leopold Zunz,
Abraham Geiger, Zachariah Frankel — none mastered Jewish
history and literature as well as he. This group, together with
their colleagues and disciples, brought about the creation of the
German literature in the realms of modern Jewish learning. None
of them equaled Steinschneider in the voluminous output of
learned and useful writings. Most of his writings were not intended
for the casual reader; virtually all were designed as tools for the
scholar. They are works of reference marked by great learning
and wide reading. All of them dealt with one aspect or other of
the cultural experience of the Jews, endeavoring to point out their
position in the advancement of cultural values as expressed in
science and literature.
Steinschneider’s labors were always performed with a view to
bringing to light the vital role played by the Jewish genius. The
versatile Joseph Jacobs, one of his eminent students, estimated
that if all of Steinschneider’s books and pamphlets were piled one
upon the other, the heap would be taller than its author. Indeed,
he produced a truly prodigious quantity of work which enriched
human knowledge.
Most of Steinschneider’s attention was centered on mediaeval
Jewish authors and their writings. The historical and bibliograph­
ical explorations of those writings have become fruitful branches
of modern Jewish learning. To no small degree this is due to his
efforts. His was the largest contribution of bibliographical and
biographical knowledge of all who were among the creators of
mediaeval Jewish literature. He was vitally concerned with the
impact of the literatures of the Middle Ages, especially those
relating to the secular sciences, upon Jewish writings in the same
field. He did not fail to give full recognition to the role of secular
works in the treatment of the history of Jewish literature, which
previously had been regarded as exclusively religious in character.
He evidently had no theological interest in Jewish literature,
other than that which reflected the development of scientific
thought. In fact, he was always preoccupied with the investigation
of the contributions which Jews have made to that development.