Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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DOROTHY BILIK
Tsene-rene:
A Yiddish Literary Success
T
h e
e n d
o f
t h e
twentieth century commemorates the 400th
anniversary of the most popular and best loved book in all of
Yiddish literature. According to most scholarly Yiddish literary
sources the earliest edition of this work appeared either at the
end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century. Scholars have
inferred these dates from the title page of the earliest edition
extant, Basel (although actually printed in Hanau), 1622 which
states that three previous editions, two from Cracow and one
from Lublin, were out-of-print. From the time of its first print­
ing up until the present day there have been a great number
of different editions of the
Tse’ena Ure’ena,
the so-called “Wom­
en’s Bible.”1
The components of the long standing popularity of this work
have been adumbrated by our most influential Yiddish literary
historians—Niger (1913), Erik (1928), Shatzky (1928) Zinberg
(1935) and in our time by Max and Uriel Weinreich, Chaim
Lieberman, and more directly by Rhone Shmeruk and Chave
Turniansky. Shmeruk reckons that there were many more edi­
tions than the five editions we know of which were probably
published in the author’s lifetime and speculates that existing
library entries underestimate the actual number of editions. In
1964 he estimated that there were at least 210 Yiddish editions
of the
Tsene-rene
which were published throughout Europe,
from Amsterdam to Vilna and later in the United States and
1. Transcriptions in italics conform to the YIVO standard, thus
Tsene-rene
instead o f
Tse’ena ure’ena
or any o f the myriad other spellings o f the title.
In citations the orthography o f the passage is used. Max Weinreich does
not italicize Loshn-koydesh and other comparable terms. Therefore I use
his conventions when citing him.
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