Page 120 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
In support o f an Ashkenazic origin for
Yiddish Type,
I invite the
reader to compare cursive and rabbinic hands o f the fifteenth
and early sixteenth centuries as presented in Figure 1 and else­
where2with the
Yiddish Type
o f Figures 2 and 3. In the
Yiddish Type
o f Augsburg,3Constance,4and Zurich (Figure 2) selected arbitra­
rily, for the moment, as typical, certain letters seem to me to be
especially characteristic:
alef, giml, zayen, lamed, mem, shlos-mem,
lange fey, tsadek
and
lange tsadek.
Note the prominent tails on the
giml
and the
shlos-mem;
the minor wiggle in an otherwise simple
vertical line that passes for a
lamed',
the
alef
that looks like a roman
k;
and the
tsadek
that seems to be halfway between a cursive and a
square letter. The
mem
defies easy description but is perhaps the
most distinctive letter o f all. These typical characteristics are
found both earlier and later in Ashkenazic Hebrew and Yiddish
manuscripts.
A number o f scholars assert that the origin o f
Yiddish Type
is to
be found in the type used for Rashi and the Targum in the Bolo­
gna, 1482, Pentateuch (Figure 4).5 This type is normally des­
cribed as Italian semi-square, and it seems to me to bear only little
resemblance to
Yiddish Type,
to have an entirely different feel.
The characteristics described above are largely absent.
2 See especially, Birnbaum,
Hebrew Scripts
I, cols. 307-8, #357 (Ashkenazic Cur­
sive, 1484); II, #358 (Ashkenazic Cursive, 1502), #367 (Ashkenazic Mashait,
1412), #378 (Ashkenazic Mashait, 1477), #379 (Ashkenazic Mashait, 1492),
#380 (Ashkenazic Mashait, 1535), and others.
3 For facsimile, see IDC,
Hamishah Humshei Torah.
(Augsburg, 1544) or L. Fuks,
Das Altjiddische Epos Melo»kim
Bu»k
(Assen: Van Gorcum, 1965) which con­
tains a full facsimile o f the 1543 edition.
4 For facsimile, see IDC,
Hamishah Humshei Torah. . .
.
(Constance, 1544) or M.
Weinreich,
Shtaplen
(Berlin: Wostok, 1923), p. 101.
5 M. Steinschneider and D. Cassel, “Jiidische Typographic und jiidischer
Buchhandel,”
Allgemeine Encyclopaedie
. . .
(Ersch und Gruber), 38 (Leipzig,
1851): 23, note 37, made this misidentification, misled perhaps by the
g im l
with a longish tail. They also suggested the type o f the Prague
T u r
o f 1540
(Figure 8) as an origin, but 1540 is too late, though the resemblance is good.
See also Weinreich,
Pintelekh,
p. 191; Herman Frank,
Idishe tipografye
(New
York, Hebrew-American Typographical Union, 1938), pp. 39-40; J.M.
Salkind, “Di geshikhte fun di idishe bukh-drukeray,”
Renesans
1 (1920):
41-50, 131-144; 194-205 and 2 (1920): 198-210, particularly, 2:199. Wein­
reich, Frank and Salkind either independently made the same suggestions or,
more likely, blindly followed Steinschneider and Cassel.