Bernstein, Ignatz

views updated


BERNSTEIN, IGNATZ (1836–1909), Yiddish folklorist and collector of proverbs. Born in Vinnitsa (now Ukraine), Bernstein was the son of a wealthy family of sugar merchants, and as a rich industrialist in Warsaw he was able to indulge in his hobby of collecting the folklore of many cultures. He accumulated one of the world's richest libraries in this field. Bernstein published a two-volume illustrated catalog of his collection of books and manuscripts (1900, 19682). He traveled through Europe, North Africa, and Palestine, and for 35 years collected Yiddish proverbs current among the Jews of Russia, Poland, and Galicia. He published 2,056 Yiddish proverbs in Mordecai Spector's annual Hoyzfraynd ("Family Friend," 1888–89). Two decades later the number of proverbs had grown to 3,993, which he published in a magnificent volume Yidishe Shprikhverter un Rednsartn ("Jewish Proverbs and Sayings," 1908, 1912, 1948, 1988). In the same year he published his collection of 227 Yiddish proverbs concerned with sex under the Latin title Erotica et Rustica (1908, 19182, 1975). Bernstein helped to found, and also supported, the central Jewish library in Warsaw.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 1 (1928), 373–5; lnyl, 1 (1956), 407–8; J. Shatzky, Geshikhte fun Yidn in Varshe, 3 (1953), 325–8. add. bibliography: G. Weltman and M. Zuckerman (eds.), Yiddish Sayings Mama Never Taught You (1975 repr. and trans. of Erotica et Rustica).

[Sol Liptzin and

Charles Cutter /

Benjamin Sadock (2nd ed.)]