Yesterday afternoon Dr. Martin Jacobs presented a lecture on "Hebrew Belles Lettres and the Memory of Spain: Ibn Verga's Staff of Judah, an early printed book from Washington University's Shimeon Brisman Collection in Jewish Studies." The lecture focused on the printing and sociological history of this early modern bestseller, a 1655 edition of which is on display in the Libraries' current exhibition, Expressions of Jewish Life through Texts and Objects.
In his lecture, Dr. Jacobs described the book (Shevet Yehudah in Hebrew) as partly a traditional chronicle of misfortunes suffered by Jews in the Gentile nations, but with fictitious dialogues between Christian kings, churchmen, and Jewish scholars interspersed throughout. Musing on the author's ambiguous use of these historical and literary devices, Dr. Jacobs explained how the work would have resonated among the Portuguese Jewish community for which it was written.
In introducing the speaker, Shelli Kastin, a cataloging supervisor at WU, described the Brisman Collection, how it came to the University, and the splendid progress Jill Storm, PhD candidate in the Department of History, has made in its cataloging. Kastin also thanked the University of Michigan and Mrs. Constance Harris for making materials from The Jewish Heritage Collection Dedicated to Mark and Dave Harris (pdf) available for exhibition at WU. The exhibition continues through Sunday, June 28, 2009, and may be viewed whenever Olin Library is open.