Page 81 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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ROBERT SINGERMAN
Almanacs and Literary Annuals in
Jewish Literature
A n
e s p e c ia l l y
f a s c i n a t in g
genre of Jewish literature is the al­
manac, an annual serial publication typically combining aspects
of the yearbook
{sefer ha-shanah,
in Hebrew;
yorbukh,
in Yiddish)
and the ephemeral pocket or wall calendar
{luah,
in Hebrew;
luekh,
in Yiddish). The almanac, incorporating the factual, sta­
tistical, astronomical, or calendrical features of both formats,
has long been ignored by bibliographers and historians of Jew­
ish publishing and cultural history.1 Together with the literary
annual, almanacs, despite their linguistic diversity and ofttimes
bibliographic scarcity and ephemeral status, provide the re­
searcher with uncommon valuable data — factual, literary, or
historical — on cultural conditions throughout the Jewish world
at the time of publication.
The earliest printed Hebrew calendar would appear to be
the incunabulum printed in Guadalajara, Spain, ca. 1482, sur­
viving in a unique copy held by the Jewish National and Uni­
versity Library. Over the years, the calendar evolved into the
familiar booklet form showing the months and days of the year,
dates for the new moons, the holy days, fast days, and festivals.
It also gave the names of the Torah portions
{Parashiyot)
and
the selections from the Prophets
{Haftarot)
to be read for every
week of the year, supplemented by the civil calendar, anniver­
saries, and memorable dates in Jewish and secular history. The
addition of a literary supplement to a Jewish almanac did not
take place until the appearance in 1818 of the
Almanach fu r
die Israelitische Jugend,
published in Berlin by J. Heinemann.
The standard features of a Jewish almanac around the middle
1. Though written sixty years ago, Moses Shalit’s
Lukhes in unzer literatur
(Vilna,
1929), remains an unsurpassed bibliographical study o f Jewish almanacs and
literary calendars.