Page 170 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
tion of the Ephraim Deinard library of Hebraica in 1930.5 Four
years before his death, Deinard attempted to register all Ameri­
can Hebraica, broadly defined to encompass books containing
Hebrew type, from 1735 till 1925 in his
Kohelet Amerika
(St. Louis,
1926), with a large number of his recorded items passing into
Harvard’s possesion.6 There is, for instance, Deinard’s first (?)
American catalogue of books for sale (No. VIII), issued by him in
Newark, 1889. Other representative titlesjust from the year 1889
include Michael L. Rodkinson’s
Tekhunat ruah ha-yisraeli,
printed
at the office of Rodkinson’s weekly New York paper,
Ha-Kol,
or
the rare Chicago edition of the tractate
Bikkurim
from the
Jerusalem Talmud with Abraham Eliezer Alperstein’s commen­
tary. Not only is this the first appearance of any Talmud portion
in book form in the United States, the edition also bears an appro­
bation by “Chief Rabbi” Jacob Joseph, only recently arrived in
America from Europe in 1888.
Thanks in large part to Leo Wiener’s initiative and A.A.
Roback’s devoted bibliographic guidance over many decades,
Harvard can boast of a fine collection of 19th-century Yiddica
from Europe and the United States. As early as 1899, Harvard
professor Leo Wiener, after completing his pathbreaking history
of Yiddish literature, lamented that the “collection of data on the
writers in America has been even more difficult than in Russia”
because so many of our domestic Yiddish serials could no longer
be procured.7 The majority of the now brittle potboiler novels
and romances were issued serially while street vendors hawked
penny songs, ballads, and plays for mere pocket change. Often
derogatorily referred to as “shund” (Yiddish for “literary trash”),
these poorly printed productions were typically not preserved by
their readers and copies today are to be found, if at all, only in the
biggest research libraries. In a great many cases, these novels are
more often than not adaptations or free translations of popular
European works (Tolstoy, Dumas, Zola, and Verne come readily
to mind) by penurious immigrant Yiddish authors such as D.M.
5 Harry A. Wolfson, “Hebrew Books in Harvard,”
Harvard Alumni Bulletin,
April 29, 1932; A.A. Roback, “The Yiddish Collection in the Harvard College
Library,” ibid., April 26, 1929.
6 Simcha Berkowitz, “Ephraim Deinard: Bibliophile and Bookman,”
Studies in
Bibliography and Booklore,
v. 9, no. 4 (Spring 1971), pp. 137-52.
7 Leo Wiener,
TheH istory o f Yiddish Literature in the Nineteenth Century
(New York,
1899), pp. xxxii-xxxiii.