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Гинцбург И.И. Каталог еврейских рукописей СПбФ ИВ РАН / Gintsburg I.I. Catalog of Jewish Manuscripts in the Institute of Oriental Studies. Memorial Edition. New York, Paris: Norman Ross Publishing Inc., 2003. ISBN 0-88354-276-5.


The work before you has suffered a tragic fate: its author, Iona Iosifovich (Osipovich) Gintsburg, who perished during the siege of Leningrad, spent his final days preparing it for publication. 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 conscious life despite the many barriers and difficulties he encountered along the way (see Biography, below).

Gintsburg,s death, which occurred in Leningrad during the most trying days of the siege, prevented him from publishing what was to be his magnum opus. Nonetheless, he did everything in his power to polish the work and leave it in a state suitable for publication.

The manuscript for this work (a typewritten text of the catalog with Gintsburg’s interspersed handwritten notes) made its way to the Orientalists’ Archive from the estate of the deceased scholar, a fact attested to by a note included in it by V.I. Belyaev. The manuscript, estimated by the author to be some forty signatures (quires?), fills eight large binders. Each of the first three binders contains 1012 ־ signatures of original manuscript, with subsequent binders containing one half or one third as many. In the beginning of the manuscript the author’s corrections pertain chiefly to Oriental texts, of which there are relatively few in the descriptive section. Beginning approximately halfway through, Gintsburg’s manuscript is written entirely by hand. All citations from texts in Oriental languages were meticulously written out in his idiosyncratic Ashkenazi cursive script. Since the manuscript was created on poor quality paper, many of its pages have become tattered or worn through and require delicate handling. It is believed that there is but one copy of the manuscript in existence. All of these circumstances surrounding the work have affected its preparation in one way or another.

In the 1960s K.B. Starkova and A.M. Gazov- Ginzberg were assigned the task of finalizing the manuscript for publication. They accomplished the major task of preparing the heavily edited catalog text, whose revision consisted of two parts, unequal in size, content, and in their systems of entry descriptions. The text encompassed works of artistic prose, poetry, folklore and even works of natural science. For a number of reasons primarily having to do with the lack of interest in Jewish heritage in official Soviet scholarship and publishing at the time, and also due to the emigration of one of the authors, the work was never to see the light of day. Moreover, the completely corrected and press-ready manuscript disappeared under mysterious circumstances after being sent to the publisher in Moscow.

In the mid 1980s, a young Semitic Studies scholar, I.F. Naftuliev, was asked to continue work on the catalog. Naftuliev went back to the original Gintsburg manuscript, retyped it and began preparing an index, but soon left the Institute, without having had the time to write out the necessary Hebrew texts by hand.

The administration of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies continued its search for a publisher. A copy of the manuscript was sent to Hebrew Union College in New York, with whom a preliminary agreement was reached to complete the manuscript. Before long, however, the American partners lost interest in the project.

Thus the editors of the present publication found themselves with several versions of the text, none of which reflected modem methods of Hebraic studies. Meanwhile, interest in the collection among Russian and foreign scholars alike had risen sharply since the late 1980s. Under the direction of professor Malachi Beit-Aria, the entire Hebraic Collection had been preserved on microfilm as part of a joint project with the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. (As a result, microfilms of the manuscripts described in the present catalog are now held not only in St. Petersburg, but also in Jerusalem.) Under the circumstances, the administration of the St. Petersburg Branch was also disposed to accept the proposal of New York publisher Norman Ross to publish another work from our archives—the manuscript of the Gintsburg catalog, practically in the same form in which it had come to us.

With the consent o f Norman Ross Publishing, B.I. Zaikovsky of the Russian National Library, , was engaged to prepare the book for press. Zaikovsky undertook the painstaking correction of Gintsburg’s manuscript (it was apparent from the beginning that the conditions under which Gintsburg worked had inevitably produced typographical and spelling errors).

In addition to Zaikovsky, work on this edition was contributed by B.A. Melentsevich and G.A. Nyashin (word processing of the Russian portion of the text), S.A. Frantsuzov (word processing of the Hebrew), O.B. Shakirov (page layout and design), and T.G. Bulgakova (editing of the Russian text), each of whom has done much to ensure that this manuscript has been properly prepared for publication.

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