Page 118 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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Early Yiddish Typography
a y b e r t a y t s h
o r
k h i n e
k s a v
o r
s e n e
r e n e
k s a v
is a special
variety of Hebrew type that is both more recent than women’s use
of Yiddish and considerably older than the first printed edition
of the
(1586) or the
Tsene rene
(1615). Accordingly, and to
negate the false connotations of the earlier descriptions, I pro­
pose the term
Yiddish Type.
It is no simple matter to define
Yiddish Type,
decide what its ori­
gins were, determine when and why it came to be used for Yid­
dish, and trace its spread over Europe. A variety of disciplines —
paleography, history, and typography at least — are the neces­
sary tools, and this limited probe can only be a beginning.
Nonetheless, thinking about the definition, the origins, and the
spread of Yiddish Type has led me to a model that, to my knowl­
edge, has not previously been offered. I trust that this coherent
picture will stand up under scrutiny.
Hebrew paleography is our first tool. From among the variety
of terms that paleographers use to describe the hand which we
associate with rabbinic commentaries,1 I arbitrarily choose the
term “rabbinic.” The term “cursive” is generally used for more
fluid writing. Scholars disagree about whether a particular writ­
ing is rabbinic or cursive, and I agree that the two seem to merge
in fact as well as in nomenclature.
1 Solomon A. Birnbaum,
The Hebrew Scripts
(2 vols.; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1971 and
London: Palaeographia, 1954-57), distinguishes between “mashait” and “cur­
sive” and decries the use o f “rabbinic” (I:cols. 189-190). M. Weinreich,
shvartse pintelekh
(Wilno: Yivo, 1939), makes arbitrary distinctions among
“Rashi-ksav,” “mashkit,” and “meshit” (pp. 177-184). C. Habersaat, “Reper-
torium der Jiddischen Handschriften,”
Rivista degli Studi Orientali
29 (1954):
53-70; 30 (1955): 235-249; 31 (1956): 41-49, says that Rashi script is called
“Masket” or “Maset” and sometimes is used as a name for Yiddish cursive, p.