Saturday, October 27, 2012

Statement of Research Need

I had to write up a rough research plan as part of the application for a reader's card for the Bodleian Library; so since it was already all spelled out, I figured I'd share some of what I'll be up to for the next two weeks, Frankenstorm-pending, of course.


I propose to consult with three manuscripts that form part of the Bodleian collection.

The first is Neubauer Cat. No. 1402.1, a copy of the Hebrew translation of Solomon ibn Gabirol’s ethical-didactic treatise, The Improvement of Moral Qualities, as well as a letter written by the translator to a friend in which he describes his translation process. The subject of my current research is that translator, Judah ibn Tibbon, his son Samuel, and their joint intellectual program. I have, thus far, consulted with the two extant editions of the letter, published in Hamburg in 1848 and in Lyck in 1859. The Hamburg edition literally leaves question marks in the text, and the Lyck edition was based on the earlier print edition rather than on the manuscript. I therefore require access to the manuscript to ascertain what those question marks are standing in for, whether it is text or damage to the page.

The second is Bodleian MS 2130 (Cat. No. 730), a letter from a sixteenth-century bookseller, Pinhas of Narbonne, in which he describes his communications with a confederate, Isaac bar Menahem of Narbonne, whom I believe to have been involved in the creation of forged texts attributed to the translators who are the subject of my research. The letter is cited once, quoted only partially and only in French translation of the original Hebrew, in Henri Gross’ Gallia Judaica.

The third is Neubauer Cat. 2219.3, a Hebrew ethical will written by the father translator to the son translator. This is the only complete manuscript of one of the major texts that forms the basis of my research. I have been working from editions up until now but prior to publishing my work I wish to verify a few details of the text by consulting with the manuscript.

And finally, in the introduction to his catalogue of Hebrew manuscripts held by the Bodleian Library, Adolf Neubauer explains that he does not do more than give a cursory listing of each manuscript because “something must be left for those who may make a special study of these manuscripts” (vii). I hope, by working with the manuscripts themselves, that I may be able to discover things that I cannot yet identify as needing because they will have been overlooked, deliberately or unintentionally, by cataloguers and earlier scholars.

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