Page 77 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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When the time finally came to set the concordance in type,
probably in the late 1880’s, it turned out that the typesetters at the
printing firm of Wilhelm Drugulin in Leipzig could not work
from the slips on which Mandelkern had written down the
entries in cursive script, and he was forced to copy each of the
tens of thousands of lines in longhand, this time in square letters.
Many mistakes in vocalization later found in the finished work
were probably due to transcription errors made during this labo­
rious and incredibly tedious process. When the galleys were
finished, the immense task of proofreading began, which, ac­
cording to Mandelkern’s own account, took him the better part of
the next five years, even though he had some help from a friend,
Isaac Jacob Cohen. At the same time, he was also working on yet
another book, a history of Russian literature in German13 that
filled almost five hundred pages. All this while, as he puts it in the
introduction, moving “from house to house and from place to
place.” He did not tell his readers in what manner he managed to
take with him the tens of thousands of slips without disturbing
their proper order, but this task alone must have taxed his phys­
ical stamina as well as his mind to the limit. Despite the flowery
style that he employed in the introduction it was certainly no hy­
perbole but the plain truth when he said, “for now my soul is
weary and my power has been broken by this work . . . but from
the depth of my heart I can testify publicly that I did not shy away
from hard work and drudgery, and that all I undertook I did
In January 1894 he could report to a friend that seventy sheets
out of an estimated two hundred had already been printed,
comprising the words from
k i.14
A few months later it
seemed as if his fortunes would yet take a turn for the better. He
received an invitation to become the rabbi of the community of
Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and he moved to that city. But
soon after his arrival he fell ill and had to return to Leipzig,
where he now became interested in spiritism — perhaps a late
echo o f his youthful encoun ter with the mysticism of the
Historische Chrestomathie der russischen Literatur von ihren Anfangen bis au f die
neueste Zeit: mit Einleitung, Biographien und bibliographischen Notizen in deutscher
Hannover: Hahn, 1891. xii, 488 p.
14 The letter is dated 3 January 1984 and is addressed to Nehemiah Shemuel
Libowitz. Published in "npnaia ■ppVrjana^w,, /DxVa
(Solomon Mandelkern
in America),
35 (1956), p. 93-94.