Page 114 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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e w i s h
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The Haskala period has special significance for Yiddish litera-
ture, since it marks the beginnings of modern Yiddish letters.
But the early Haskala works in Yiddish are very scarce because
few publishers were willing to risk their reputation and profits
for this daring and unpopular kind of literature. As a result some
works appeared in very small editions, others had to be published
outside Russia, and still others appeared long after they had been
written. The greatest rarity of this group is
Tsofnas Paneakh
Haykl Halevi Hurwitz (Berdichev, 1817), one of the first works
of Enlightenment in Russia. Printed with modern square type (not
“meshkit”) and with letters replacing vowel-points, it has also the
distinction of being the earliest Yiddish “Americana” since its
subject is the discovery of America.10 The work is so rare that no
known copy is extant even in the country of its origin.11 Only one
Yiddish work is known to have come from the pen of Isaac Ber
Levinsohn, father of the Haskala in Russia. I t is the comedy
which never appeared in print during the author’s
life time. The YIVO copy is an edition published posthumously
by his friend and admirer, B. Nathansohn; it appeared in War-
saw in 1902. To the list of landmarks in pre-classical Yiddish
literature which are also bibliographically rare we add
by Yisroel Aksenfeld, “the first novelist in Yiddish
literature” (Leipzig, 1862), and
by Solomon Ettinger,
the greatest Yiddish writer of the pre-Mendele Moykher Sforim
period, published posthumously by the author's son in St. Peters-
burg, 1889.
Modern Yiddish Literature
Modern Yiddish literature, starting with Mendele Moykher
Sforim, constitutes one of the great riches of the YIVO library.
There are early and rare editions of the “firsts,” works with which
the great three—Mendele, Sholom Aleichem and Peretz—made
their debut in Yiddish literature, various editions of their col-
lected works, translations into other languages, and periodicals
to which they contributed or which they edited. The library pos-
sesses a copy of Sholom Aleichem’s
Yidishe Folks-bibliotek
1-2, Kiev, 1888-89) bearing the editor’s autographed dedication
to his publisher, and a complete series of Y.L. Peretz’s
(Warsaw, 1894-95), the target of vicious attacks by David
Frishman who published them in pamphlet form under the
pseudonym of Abraham Goldberg. A rare item is the short-lived
Yidishe Vokhnshrift,
nos. 1-4 (February 10-March 3,
10Z. Reyzen, “Kampes Antdekung fun Amerike in Yidish,”
Yivo B le ter ,
v. 5
(1933), p. 29-40.
Sovietish H eym land ,
no. 2 (1967), p. 152.