Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

Basic HTML Version

many Russian
who at that time sought to flee the tsarist
regime. They wanted to reach the country in which their move­
ment had started and where Jews were now emancipated, occu­
pying higher positions in the economic and cultural spheres
(though not yet in the academic world which was largely closed to
them unless they converted to Christianity).
Leipzig, the city chosen by Mandelkern as his new domicile,
was then the center of German book production. In all of
Europe, only there (or possibly in Berlin) could he hope to find
printers and typesetters capable of producing his planned con­
cordance which he had begun in Odessa. Such a work had to be
set almost entirely by hand, since every line was to be a mixture of
Hebrew and Roman letters in a large variety of typefaces, and all
headwords as well as some other textual material had to be vocal­
ized by the tiny vowel marks of the Hebrew writing system, which
at that time could also be set in type only by hand in a laborious
and time-consuming process.
Moreover, he was eager to join those German-Jewish scholars
who, in the footsteps of Leopold Zunz, the founder of the
“Wissenschaft des Judentums,”were then successfully competing
with and even surpassing the Gentile theologians and Oriental­
ists who for generations had dominated the field of biblical schol­
arship and philology of Semitic languages. He was however
unable to secure a position that would have allowed him to devote
himself only to his scholarly work. To sustain himself, he had to
accept an offer from the Leipzig publishing house of Reclam
which specialized in issuing cheap paperbound editions of the
classics and translations of foreign literature. For many years he
translated for them masterworks of Russian literature for a fixed
fee of 10 marks per printed sheet of 16 pages (which was less than
the average daily wage of a factory worker). To make ends meet,
he tried to augment these starvation wages by writing and editing
philological works and translations. Only his spare time could be
devoted to the concordance on which he labored incessantly, lit­
erally by day and by night. The Hebrew poet David Frishman
who v isited him o f ten d u r in g those years, recalls th a t
Mandelkern looked healthy and vigorous when he came to
Leipzig but became more and more emaciated, that his face had
an ashen color, and that his eyes seemed at times to be aglow with
a fiery expression often seen in those about to lose their mind. At
all times he carried with him a small Bible in which gradually ev­