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BABA BUCH:

Judæo-German translation or adadaptation by Elijah Levita of an Italian version of the Anglo-Roman romance, "Sir Bevis of Hamton." The Italian version of this, entitled "Buovo d'Antona," was very popular—no less than thirty editions being known of it, five of them before 1507, when Elias Levita translated it into Judæo-German. His exact object in making this translation is not quite clear; it may have been merely as a pastime or as a sort of literary curiosity, but it had become recognized by the authorities in Rome that the German Jews could be reached only through their own dialect; and there may, therefore, have been a conversionist motive at the root of this translation, as well as of the Judæo-German translation of the Bible which was made simultaneously and among the same circles. However the case may be, the book proved very popular. After its first publication at Isny or Venice about 1540, it was republished at Prague in 1660; and was reprinted at Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1691, at Amsterdam in 1721, at Wilhelmsdorf in 1724; and became especially popular among Jewish women, for whom it was almost the sole romance in any accessible literary form. To them it was familiar as the "Bovo Buch," which was closer to the Italian original, and is probably the true transliteration, though Steinschneider transliterates it "Baba Buch" ("Cat. Bodl." col. 934). The source of this popular work remained a literary puzzle until it was solved by J. Zedner in 1863, who gave conclusive evidence of its derivation from the old English romance in its Italian form. Among other pieces of evidence of its Italian origin he points out the use of the word "solfa," misprinted in the edition as .The subject is one of the curiosities of Jewish literature.

Bibliography:
  • Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. i. 155-159, iii. 99, iv. 782;
  • Steinschneider, in Serapeum, 1848, p. 321; 1869, p. 132;
  • idem, Ueber die Volksliteratur der Juden, p. 18;
  • Zedner, in Hebr. Bibl. vi. 22.
G. J.
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