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Katalog Evreiskikh Rukopisei

SPbF IV RAN

[Catalog of Jewish Manuscripts

In the Institute of Oriental Studies]

by

Iona I. Gintsburg

 

This work catalogs the well-known collection of Jewish manuscripts in the St. Petersburg branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (known as the Asiatic Museum before 1930). The work was compiled by Dr. Iona Gintsburg, who died in 1942 during the Nazi siege of Leningrad. Since his death the catalog has remained in manuscript form, making the collection virtually inaccessible. The catalog has now been revised and corrected for publication by specialists of the Institute and has been published for the first time by Ross Publishing Inc.

The catalog contains descriptions of 964 titles in the following order:

Biblical literature (nos. 1-83)

Philology (nos. 84-166)

Exegesis (nos. 167-357)

Philosophy, Ethics, Logic, other branches of scholarship (nos. 358-599)

Kabbalah (nos. 600-662)

Theology (nos. 663-964)

 

Each entry includes the size of the manuscript, number of pages, type of binding and period from which the manuscript dates. When it was possible, the compiler listed the names of copyists and provenance. The title of each manuscript is listed in Hebrew, while the descriptions are in Russian. The work includes a Foreword by Professor Yuri Petrosyan, an Introduction by Dr. Klavdia Starkova, and was edited for publication by Boris Zaikovsky, Curator of the Hebrew Collection of the Russian National Library.

 

Publication date: 10/15/03............................................$80

Hardbound, 8.5x11", ix + 201 pp, ISBN 0-88354-276-5

 

Catalog of Jewish Manuscripts is Published 40 Years after Death of Author

 

In the 1930s and early 1940s, a dedicated Russian-Jewish bibliographer, I. I. Gintsburg, labored relentlessly on his magnum opus, a catalog of the Jewish manuscripts he found in the Institute of Oriental Studies in Leningrad. As he neared completion of the work, the guns of war exploded to the West. Poland fell. Russia was invaded. Leningrad was surrounded and remained under siege for nearly 900 days, with little food available. More than a million souls died of starvation and the effects of malnutrition. Among them was I. I. Gintsburg.

Gintsburg's death, which occurred during the most trying days of the siege, prevented him from publishing his most important work. Although he did everything in his power to polish the work and leave it in a state suitable for publication, and although it was prepared for publication by other scholars several times over the ensuing decades, until now it had never been published. The title of each manuscript is listed in Hebrew, while the descriptions are in Russian.

 

Iona Iosifovich (Osipovich) Gintsburg was born in Russia in 1871 into the family of a civil servant. From his childhood years Gintsburg studied ancient Hebrew and the Torah and Talmud. In 1934 he was matriculated into the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which had been formed not too long before from the Asiatic Museum of the Academy of Sciences. From that day until the end of his life Gintsburg worked in the Manuscript Division of the Institute, devoting himself to a scientifically systematized catalog of the Jewish Collection.

Despite his advanced age, Gintsburg was still intensely engaged in his research throughout the 1930s, almost as if he were making up for lost time. By early 1941 Gintsburg's Catalog was nearly finished. However, his health was in decline, and by the onset of winter he was no longer able to leave the house. In April of 1942, at age 70, Iona Gintsburg died and was laid to rest in St. Petersburg's Jewish cemetery.

Of all Gintsburg's works that have survived him, the most enduring is his Catalog of Jewish Manuscripts, a work that tangibly illustrates his dedication and his love for the literature of his people. He spent five years (1936-1941) creating a systematic description of the entire collection as it existed at that time, which was only possible due to his matchless abilities and exhaustive knowledge of Jewish literature, the study of which consumed his entire life despite the many barriers and difficulties he encountered along the way.

 

Jewish Collection in The Institute of Oriental Studies Manuscript Division

By 1863 the Jewish Division of the Asiatic Museum held a considerable number of Jewish printed books and fifteen Jewish coins. The foundation of the Jewish Manuscript Collection comprised a collection of 300 works presented as a gift to the Academy of Sciences by L.P. Friedland. This collection subsequently grew gradually as a result of individual acquisitions and contributions, large and small, from various private donors and institutions. By the time Gintsburg was nearly finished with his Catalog, the following major additions to the collection had occurred:

1. Judeo-Persian manuscripts from Teheran, 1898, 16 items;

2. Manuscript collection from the library of Professor D.A. Khvol'son, 1909, 40 items;

3. Judeo-Persian collection from Bukhara, 1915, 28 items;

4. Manuscripts from Karasubazar in the Hebrew and Karaim-Tatar languages, 1930, 53 pieces (manuscripts, fragments and one scroll);

5. The most recent and largest collection of manuscripts (approximately 1,000 titles) in Hebrew, Arabic, and Karaim-Tatar from the Karaim National Library in Eupatoria in 1931.

 

The majority of manuscripts are furnished with Masoretic notations in the margins, vocalization, punctuation and accentuation, which is of great interest for studying the history of their appearance and development. One codex of the later prophets (D 62) written on crude parchment bears the date 707 AD and has the aforementioned features. There are two complete Hebrew Bible codices of the 12th Century on parchment (A 211) and one from Damascus dated 1280 (D66). The annotations on several of them have great historical value. All of the manuscripts are available on microfilm from the Institute of Oriental Studies, St. Petersburg Branch.