Page 57 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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O L D F R I E N D S R E V I S I T E D
A Review of Judaica Reprints
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absolutely dead things,” wrote Milton, “but
D do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that
soul was whose progeny they are.” It might be an exaggeration to
describe as “absolutely dead” a book that is merely out of print,
bu t it is likely to be little more than comatose. Milton goes on
to observe that: “A good book is the precious life blood of a
master spirit.” Very well; but circulation is the life blood of
authors (not to say publishers), and it coagulates when the book
receives peaceful burial in the stacks of the older libraries.
A phenomenon of the present age is the release of that which
had been interred through the reprinting of hundreds of classical
works which had become largely inaccessible. So great has been
this movement that one wondered whether it has been caused by
some development in printing technique which makes it easier
and cheaper to copy existing works. Apparently not: the college
population has leaped upward, and with it the demand for text-
books. I t is not that earlier generations did not see the reissue of
whole series of books on which the copyright had expired: wit-
ness “Everyman's Library” and the “Harvard Classics.” Then the
books were reset and redesigned to a new uniform format. Now
conditions in the printing trade make this very expensive, so
resort is had to simple photography of the original edition. We
have every reason to be grateful that such processes exist, though
in a few cases, e.g., Jastrow’s
Talmudic Dictionary,
where they
cannot or have not been applied so as to give a clear image, the
strain on the eyes can be great.
The field of Jewish studies also has been irrigated by this
stream. We may ask here whether the Holocaust has anything to
do with the need to draw on the products of our grandparents'
time; but even if due to the cutting off of the well springs of
scholarly inspiration, the desire to know what the past produced
is encouraging.
In this branch of publishing Ktav has projected “The Library
of Jewish Classics” under the editorship of Gerson D. Cohen and
“The Library of Biblical Studies” under the editorship of Harry
M. Orlinsky. Schocken Books have made their contribution, and
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