BOCCACCIO, GIOVANNI, IN JEWISH LITERATURE:
By: Richard Gottheil
Among the translations into Judæo-German of popular books and legends, such as Bevis of Hampton, the Arthur legend, and Till-Eulenspiegel, there is one of seven stories from the "Decameron" of Boccaccio (1313-75). The translator, Joseph (of) Maarsen, published several Judæo-German works. The little volume of 36 folios appeared in Amsterdam in 1710 under the title "Schöne Artliche Geschichten," and contains, according to Steinschneider, the following tales: "Andrew of Perugia," "Beritola," "Gilford," "The Three Brothers," "Landolf," "The Daughter of the Sultan of Babylon," and "The Count of Anguerra." It may have been taken from the Dutch version of Boccaccio published in 1644. On the title-page the translator has printed a rimed account of the merits of the book, and speaks of editing parts ii. to v., in addition to part i. In the preface he says:
"The book out of which I have copied these Ma'asim was over 100 years old; and at that time the Dutch language was much harsher than it is now. The kind and gentle reader will therefore excuse me, if my language here and there is not quite proper. I have tried to make it so that any one can understand me. I might have translated it into pure German (Sauber Deutsch); but then it would have been unintelligible in Holland. I could also have translated it into Dutch (Hollandsch-Deutsch). But then the 'Hoch-Deutsche Yehudim' would not have understood it. I have, therefore, written it in neither too high nor too low German."
He says, also, that he was careful not to introduce Hebrew words, as he holds it to be a sin to mingle the holy tongue with a strange one.
- Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 1507;
- idem, Jewish Literature, p. 250.
- On the influence of Boccaccio, see the remarks of Jost, printed in Brann's Jahrbuch, xl. 19, and Steinschneider, in Monatsschrift, xlii. 471.