AKRISH, ISAAC B. ABRAHAM:
By: H. G. Enelow
Scholar, bibliophile, and editor; born in Spain about 1489; died after 1578. The Arabic form of the name, as Steinschneider has pointed out, occurs in a manuscript of Algiers. In a list of forty-eight Jewish families living at Saguntum in 1352 (published by Chabret, "Hist. de Sagunte," ii. 186) the name Içach Acrix occurs, which Loeb ("Rev. Ét. Juives," xix. 159) rightly interprets as Isaac Akrish. No mention of Akrish is found in the medieval Jewish chronicles; not even in Sambari's historic sketch, where allusion to him in the annals of Egyptian Jewry might be expected. Some autobiographic data, however, are contained in his writings. The introduction to his edition of a triple commentary on the Song of Solomon informs us that he belonged to those exiles from Spain (1492) who, having settled at Naples, were afterward compelled to leave it also (1495). Though lame in both legs, he was a wanderer well-nigh throughout his life, among peoples "whose tongues he knew not, and who regarded neither old men norchildren." The course of his tiresome travels at length brought him to Cairo, Egypt. There he was taken into the house of R. David ibn Abi Zimra, an immigrant who had attained to a high communal position. For about ten years (about 1543-53) Akrish remained at Cairo as private tutor to David's children and grandchildren, until his patron's emigration to Palestine caused him again to take up the wanderer's staff. This time Constantinople was apparently his goal; but before he reached it he must have rested a while at Candia. According to his own testimony in the preface to Efodi's "Letter," he was at Candia when his beloved library was confiscated by the Venetian government "in the year of the burning of the Talmud" (the latter part of 1553).
When Constantinople was finally reached Akrish found in it a haven of safety and rest. The Jewess Esther Chiera, philanthropist and patron of art and letters, became his benefactress, and supported the wayworn Akrish liberally, especially after the extensive fire at Constantinople (1569), which devoured almost the whole Jewish quarter. Later Akrish was taken into the house of Joseph, duke of Naxos, where his scholarly inclinations and his love of books at last found ample field for activity. Record exists of his stay there as late as the year 1578, when Jacob Catalani Shem-Ṭob copied for him Ibn Shaprut's polemic work "Eben Boḥan."
Jewish literature is indebted to Akrish for the preservation of several important historic treasures. While at Constantinople, about 1577, he edited a collection of ten documents (afterward called "ḳobeẓ Wikkuḥim"), containing notably the satirical letter addressed by Profiat Duran (Efodi) to his former friend David En-Bonet, "Al tehi ka-Aboteka" (Be Not Like Thy Fathers), which, as Akrish points out in his introduction, was so deceptive in its irony that Christians for a long while considered it a vindication of Christianity, citing it as "Alteca Boteca." The same volume contained, also, the proselyting epistle of the apostate Astruc Raimuch (Franciscus Dioscarne) to his young friend En-Shaltiel Bonfas, as well as the satirical reply to it by Solomon Bonfed.
He then edited (about 1577) a second collection of documents, largely of a historical character. The first part bore the title "Ma'aseh Bet David," and contained the history of Bostanai, the exilarch; the second, that of "ḳol Mebasser." This last comprised the correspondence between Ḥasdai ibn Shaprut and the king of the Chazars; an account, by a certain Mohammedan named Ali, of the Jews who lived near the Sambation river (see Neubauer, in "Jew. Quart. Rev." i. 420), translated into Hebrew by Moses Ashkenazi of Crete; and the letter of Elijah of Ferrara. (German translations of this work appeared at Basel, 1600-9; Amsterdam, 1685; Prague, 1705; a Judæo-German one made its appearance under the title "Ein Wunderlich Geschächtniss . . . von einen der hot Geheissen Bostanai," Prague, about 1686-90.) In addition to other works, Akrish is said to have edited a triple commentary upon the Song of Songs.
- Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, 3d ed., ix. 8 et seq., 394, 397, 563, 568 et seq.;
- Benjacob, Oẓar ha-Sefarim, pp. 9, 521;
- Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 1084;
- Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, under David ibn Abi Zimra;
- Brüll, Jahrbuch, 1887, pp. 53-55;
- Jew. Quart. Rev. xi. 585, xii. 203;
- Zunz, G. S. i. 80.