Akrish, Isaac ben Abraham

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AKRISH, ISAAC BEN ABRAHAM (b. 1530), talmudic scholar, traveler, and publisher. Son of a Spanish exile, who went to Salonika after having lived in Naples, Akrish, despite his lameness, traveled extensively throughout his life. His special interest was in manuscripts which he attempted to save from destruction. Arriving in Egypt about 1548, he was engaged by *David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, the head of Egyptian Jewry, to teach his grandchildren. Whatever he earned he spent in purchasing manuscripts, and devoted his time to copying those in Ibn Zimra's library. In 1554, on his way to Candia, his books were confiscated by the Venetian authorities in the wake of the recent edict against the Talmud. Succeeding in rescuing his books, he apparently traveled to Constantinople and then in 1562 back to Egypt. Later he returned to Constantinople where patrons such as Don Joseph *Nasi and Esther *Kiera helped him to engage scribes to copy manuscripts. In 1569 a fire destroyed most of his books. He left Constantinople for Kastoria where he lived for four years in poverty.

Akrish then began publishing books and documents he had collected during his travels. Three such collections, which are of great importance, were published in Constantinople between 1575 and 1578 without title pages or specific titles. The first (republ. as Koveẓ Vikkuḥim, 1844) contained Iggeret Ogeret, a collection of polemical writings, including Profiat *Duran's famous letter, Al Tehi ka-Avotekha, the polemical letter of Shem Tov ibn *Falaquera, and Kunteres Ḥibbut ha-Kever by Akrish himself. The second collection (16073) contains several important items about the Ten Lost Tribes, the letter of *Hisdai ibn Shaprut to the king of the *Khazars, and Ma'aseh Beit David bi-Ymei Malkhut Paras, which is the story of *Bustanai. The Khazar correspondence was published by Akrish to "strengthen the people in order that they should believe firmly that the Jews have a kingdom and dominion."

The third collection of three commentaries on the Song of Songs by *Saadiah, Joseph ibn Caspi, and an unknown author, possibly Jacob Provençal, were annotated and corrected by Akrish himself. He also wrote Ḥeshbon ha-Adam im Kono (published with Kunteres Ḥibbut ha-Kever in Sar Shalom by Shalom b. Shemariah ha-Sephardi, Mantua, 1560?).


Steinschneider, Cat Bod, 1084, 1521; Graetz, Gesch, 9 (18913), index; Bruell, in: Jahrbuecher fuer Juedische Geschichte und Literatur, 8 (1887), 53 ff.; I. Davidson, Sefer Sha'ashu'im (1914), 88; (1925), 67 ff.; Rosanes, Togarmah, 2 (1951), 461; C. Roth, House of Nasi: Duke of Naxos (1948), 173 ff.; A. Yaari, Meḥkerei Sefer (1958), 212–13, 235 ff., 279; idem, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Kushta (1967), 118 ff.; Dunlop, Khazars, 128 ff.; Benayahu, in: Sefunot, 6 (1962), 134.