Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
38
various periods, and, on the other hand, a limitation of literature
mainly to the field of belles lettres, especially poetry, ethics,
mysticism, philosophy, and polemics, and considerable disregard
of such branches as rabbinics, biblical exegesis, and grammar and
lexicography, in spite of the fact that the first of these branches
played such an important role in Jewish spiritual life during the
ages.
Within these limitations, however, the work is distinguished
by a number of very important characteristics. First of all is its
comprehensiveness, as the great mass of literature in the branches
favored produced during a thousand years is treated with detail
and completeness rarely met in histories of literature. Second,
is the great erudition of the author and his mastery of literature
displayed in the account given of numerous works in which there
is hardly a work of importance omitted; in addition, there is
much new material brought together from manuscripts and rare
editions. Third, there is to be noted the emphasis on the cultural
state of the Jews in the various centers and its correlation with
the general culture of the European nations in different periods;
Fourth, there are extensive extracts translated into Yiddish from
the works described which enable the reader to gain a deeper
insight into the nature and character of the works discussed.
This, though, has a disadvantage, for often it is done at the
expense of a general succinct but clear and systematic characteriza-
tion of the books as a whole.
The method of the author resembles, to a very large degree,
that of Dubnow in his History, namely the chronological-
geographic; and separate volumes are devoted to the literature
of periods in special Jewish centers. At times, Zinberg deviates
from that method. Thus volume V is devoted entirely to Medi-
aeval German-Jewish literature and is subdivided according to
the branches which it comprises. In general, the author pays
special attention to the development of Yiddish literature, pri-
marily in modern times, a phase which is of value, for that litera-
ture reflects Jewish folk life to a great extent, both during the
Mediaeval and Modern period. On the whole, Zinberg’s work
is certainly an outstanding contribution to the history of Jewish
literature.
GINZBERG’s LEGENDS OF THE JEWS
Almost a unique contribution towards the knowledge of a single
but extensive branch of Jewish literature is Ginzberg’s “Legends
of the Jews” in seven volumes. I t deals with the Agada, and with