JEWISH JOURNALISM AND PRINTING HOUSES IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE AND MODERN TURKEY.

Reviewed by Rachel Amado Bortnick

Jewish Journalism and Printing Houses in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey.
Nassi, G., Ed. - The Isis Press, Istanbul, 2001. 167 pages. ISBN: 975-428-149-1
(Order from: isis@turk.net)

Books and articles on Sephardic journalism and printing have heretofore been available only in scattered sources and locations, and mostly in languages other than English. The recent publication in Istanbul of the English-language - Jewish Journalism and Printing Houses in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey - has changed that situation. Editor and researcher Gad Nassi, with the collaboration of several researchers and translators from Israel, Turkey, and the U.S, has assembled here two scholarly articles on the prolific printing and journalism activity of the Sepharadim, comprehensive lists and bibliographies, and many photographs of the works discussed. The book, dedicated to the memory of the twenty-three worshippers killed in the terrorist attack at Istanbul's Neve Shalom synagogue in 1986, will serve as a treasure house for the researcher in this field and for anyone interested in the intellectual history ofSephardim.

The article titled "The Jewish Press in Turkey" by Avner Levy is an expository on the history of Jewish journalism in the Sephardic Diaspora from 1842 to the present, and the factors that led to, and the social and cultural effects of, the proliferation of journals. Here Levy also discusses the journalists, the reading public, the languages, and the journals published abroad by Jewish emigrants from Turkey. Complementing Levy's article is Gad Nassi's "Synoptic List of Ottoman-Turkish-Jewish and Other Sephardic Journals," which is no doubt the most complete ever assembled. The list of journals fills twenty-seven pages, organized alphabetically by the cities, and within each, the publications in chronological order, with the language or languages of each, the years of publication, and the editor(s), when known. Dr. Nassi also follows this with a "Glossary of Publication Titles" where journal names in French, Hebrew, Ladino, Spanish, Turkish, and Yiddish are translated intoEnglish.

Almost immediately after their settlement in the Ottoman Empire, Sephardic Jews established the first printing presses there using Hebrew type. Yaron Ben-Na'eh's article, "Hebrew Printing Houses in the Ottoman Empire" (translated from the original Hebrew) covers the gamut of Hebrew printing activity from 1493, when the first printing press began operating in Istanbul, until the 1940s. Dr. Ben-Na'eh first comments generally about the book printing history of the Sephardim and then treats each of the publishing centers - Constantinople, Salonica , Adrianople (Edirne), and Izmir - separately with respect to the significant periods of their printing output. Books printed in Hebrew type, in Hebrew or Ladino, and their authors are subsequently listed and explained by Nassi in his "Amplified Glossary of Book Printing." This is a mini-encyclopedia of works, authors and terms such as "Cairo Geniza," "Loez Sefaradi," and more.

Another remarkable work is Rifat N. Bali's "A Bibliography of Works on Journalism and Book Printing in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey." Although Bali modestly qualifies his bibliography as non-exhaustive, he has listed 169 works on Journalism, and twenty-three works on printing. As mentioned above, very few of these works are in English, the others being mostly in Turkish, Hebrew, French, Ladino, and Spanish.

The two articles, with their elucidation and their own listed sources, have been enhanced and completed by Nassi's lists and Bali's bibliography, and made - Jewish Journalism and Printing Houses in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey - into a tremendous resource for the researcher, and an impressive overview of the subject for the lay person.

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- Copyright © 2001: Moïse Rahmani -