views updated


DERENBURG (Derenbourg ), family of scholars and writers. Ẓevi hirsch derenburg, an 18th-century Hebrew writer, was born in Offenbach. In 1789 he went to Mainz as a private tutor of Hebrew and also kept a restaurant. He wrote Yoshevei Tevel (Oftenbach, 1789), a didactic moral drama in the style of M.Ḥ. Luzzatto's La-Yesharim Tehillah. The eight dramatis personae were apparently modeled on living figures in the Mainz community, including the rabbi who is the play's hero. joseph naphtali derenbourg (1811–1895), son of Ẓevi Hirsch, was an Orientalist. Joseph lived as domestic tutor in Amsterdam (1835–38), and then settled in Paris, where he continued his Oriental studies, while maintaining, under the influence of A. *Geiger, his interest in Jewish studies. In 1843 he became a French citizen and added an "O" to the second part of his name. He taught German at the Lycée Henri iv in 1851, became corrector at the Imprimerie Nationale in 1852, and also cataloged the Hebrew manuscripts at the Bibliothèque Nationale. In 1857 he founded a Jewish high school for boys which he headed until 1864. Derenbourg was awarded the Légion d'Honneur in 1869 and in 1871 was elected to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres. In 1877 a chair for rabbinic-Hebrew language and literature was created for him at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. He succeeded Solomon *Munk on the central committee of the Alliance Israélite Universelle and served later as its vice president. From 1869 to 1872 he also served as member of the Paris Consistoire.

Among Derenbourg's major contributions in the field of Oriental languages and inscriptions are: Les fables de Loqman le Sage (1850); Les inscriptions phéniciennes du Temple de Seti à Abydos (1885; in collaboration with his son Hartwig); part four of Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum (on Himyaritic and Sabean inscriptions, in collaboration with his son; 2 pts., 1889–92). His most important contributions to Jewish scholarship were: Essai sur l'histoire et la géographie de la Palestine d'après les Thalmuds et les autres sources rabbiniques (1867); Opuscules et traités d'Aboul Walid Merwan ibn Djanah de Cordoue (in association with his son, 1880); Deux versions hébraiques du livre Kalilah et Dimnah (1881); Le Livre des ParterresFleuris (Jonah ibn Janaẓ's Hebrew Grammar in Arabic, 1886); an edition of Maimonides' commentary on Seder Tohorot (Arabic text and Hebrew translation, 3 parts, 1887–89); and Oeuvres complètes de R. Saadia b. Joseph al-Fayyoumi, an edition of Saadiah's writings in Arabic, also in association with his son (5 vols., 1893–99), which was Derenbourg's most important work but remained unfinished. hartwig derenbourg (1844–1908), son of Joseph, was also an Orientalist. From 1875 he lectured in Arabic at the Ecole des Langues Orientales Vivantes and on Oriental languages at the Ecole Rabbinique. In 1885 Hartwig was appointed to the chair of Arabic at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes and to that of Islam, of which he was the first occupant. In 1900 he was elected a member of the Institut de France. Among his contributions to Jewish scholarship are the following: the editions and translations of Saadiah's Arabic version of Isaiah and Job (in association with his father and W. Bacher, 1896 and 1899; in manuscript at the British Museum). Derenbourg also compiled a catalog of Arabic manuscripts in Spanish libraries, which led him to discover the sources for a history of the Crusades and the Caliphate, published in 1895. A memorial volume, Mélanges Hartwig Derenbourg (1909), contains a full bibliography. For the German branch of the family, see *Dernburg.


W. Bacher, Joseph Derenbourg sa vie et son oeuvre (1896); V. Scheil, Notice sur la vie et les oeuvres de Hartwig Derenbourg (1909); J. Fueck, Die arabischen Studien in Europa (1955), 249ff.