Monday, May 31, 2010

Studying the Encyclopedia Judaica

When I was an elementary school student I read through the two encyclopedias we had a home. Sometimes people called me the "walking encyclopedia." This summer my son and I are reading through the 1972 edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica. I have that edition at home and I couldn't afford the new edition. I also have the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906) and the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (1939-1943). We are comparing the articles and how the editors treat subjects.

This is a long project. If we spend 1 hour per day we will need 6 or more years to finish the project. We are not just reading the primary article, but we are checking the sources the authors used and the bibliography. Some of the articles require looking up other articles. It is not possible to just read from page one to the end. Some should articles take a few minutes, while others take hours of preparation to complete. The biographic articles in the "A" volume are quite matter of fact and we have skipped most of the.

By reading the articles aloud we have found many typos and some mistakes. For example in the article, "Abbreviations," the author refers us to a book by J. Ezekiel, "Ketonet Passim." This book was written in English despite its Hebrew title. On the title page this book is called, "Kethoneth Yoseph by Joseph Ezekiel." The author must how confused this book with "Sefer Ketonet pasim by Yaʻaḳov Yosef mi-Polnaʾeh." Some of the books and articles I found digitized in the Internet Archive or Some of the references I couldn't find extant in digital or print any library.

The articles when written by more than one person were not edited for smooth reading. Sometimes they are choppy and have not had the redundancies removed. The older Jewish Encyclopedia is much easier to read and is edited much better.

So far the major articles we have read are Karaites, Abbreviations, and Magic. I'll keep you posted as to what we discover.

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