- Jewish translation history: A bibliography of bibliographies and studies by Robert Singerman
This volume, compiled by one of the world’s leading Jewish studies bibliographers, is a comprehensive and useful guide to published research about Jewish translation and its history. For inclusion in the bibliography, works needed to meet basic criteria. They might address (1) ‘[t]ranslations, [End Page 543] transcriptions, or adaptations from any language into any of the Jewish languages written in the Hebrew alphabet’, regardless of subject content or authorship, (2) ‘[t]ranslations or adaptations of works originally written in any of the Jewish languages into other languages’, (3) ‘[t]ranslations of works of undisputed Jewish content or themes but not necessarily of Jewish authorship and/or involving a Jewish language’, or (4) the role of individual translators (xxxiv).
The volume begins with an informative essay by Gideon Toury entitled ‘Translation and reflection on translation’. The focus of the essay is, in fact, narrower than its title suggests: it is a whirlwind tour of translation into Hebrew from prehistory to modern times.
The bibliography itself addresses translation into many different languages. It is divided into thirteen chapters, with bibliographical entries numbered continuously from one chapter to another—2,620 in all. In limited cases, an entry appears in more than one chapter. Many entries are followed by annotations that direct the reader to further sources. The bibliography is followed by author and subject indices, which greatly increase its utility.
The longest chapter in the book addresses translation during the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance, 900–1500. I worked with it closely over a period of three months and found it to be an excellent resource. At least one type of translation, the use of vernacular glosses (brief translations within the body of a text), was not represented, but Singerman acknowledges in his introduction that the coverage of the bibliography is not exhaustive.
The first chapter contains works that span multiple periods and are therefore of general interest. Other chapters treat the Late Renaissance and Early Modern Period, 1500–1750, the Haskalah Period, 1750–1850, translations into Hebrew, 1850–2000, translations of Hebrew Israeli literature, translations to and from Yiddish, Judezmo (Ladino) translations, Judeo-Italian translations, Judeo-Persian translations, Arabic and Judeo-Arabic translations of Jewish literature, Modern Bible translations, and liturgies and prayerbooks. The later chapters include entries that could easily have been included in earlier ones (e.g. an article about a fifteenth-century Hebraico-Provençal prayerbook could have been incorporated into the chapter on the Medieval and Early Renaissance Period), but S’s organization of the book makes it easier for scholars to locate general categories of works quickly.
The field of Jewish translation is extremely broad, and the author makes no claims of exhaustiveness. He acknowledges that for the most part he did not address the vast literature on Bible translation history. Other omissions he cites are equally understandable, for example, machine translation, commercial translation, and simultaneous interpreting. This volume serves as an important contribution to the fields of both Jewish studies and translation in general and will be used by scholars for years to come.