Steinschneider, Moritz

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STEINSCHNEIDER, MORITZ (1816–1907), father of modern Jewish *bibliography, among the founders of the "Science of Judaism" (*Wissenschaft des Judentums). Born the son of the Talmud scholar Jacob Steinschneider (1781–1856) and Hani Zadek-Weizenkorn (1792–1859) in Prossnitz, Moravia, Steinschneider received his early education in his native town, where he was influenced by his uncle Gideon *Brecher. He also attended a Christian school and studied music, an interest he maintained throughout his life. At age 13, he entered the yeshivah of R. Nehemiah *Trebitsch and in 1833 he left for Prague to take up secular studies. By that time, Steinschneider had already acquired a thorough knowledge of French and Italian from private tutors. He became a tutor in these languages, and in 1836 received a teacher's diploma for Hebrew in the Hebraeische Lehranstalt in Prague. That same year he left for Vienna, where he began to study Semitic languages; there he made the acquaintance of Leopold *Dukes, who aroused his interest in the study of medieval literature, Hebrew manuscripts, and Jewish bibliography.

In 1839 Steinschneider went to Leipzig. Though he stayed only half a year, this short stay proved crucial for his career as he both studied and formed close relationships with Heinrich L. *Fleischer and Franz *Delitzsch. After six months Steinschneider went on to the university in Berlin, where he also made the acquaintance of Leopold *Zunz and Abraham *Geiger; Zunz especially encouraged the young scholar and provided other forms of assistance. Returning to Prague in 1841, Steinschneider earned a living for three years as a private tutor and teacher in a Jewish girls' school. In 1843 he received a formal rabbinical diploma from the rabbi of his native town, Hirsch B. Fassel, and also a very warm recommendation from Salomon L. *Rapoport. While in Prague, Steinschneider unsuccessfully applied for a number of positions, including censor of Jewish books. After his friend Michael *Sachs left Prague upon accepting an invitation to Berlin, Steinschneider soon followed in 1845. Later, the friendship with Sachs cooled due to his disapproval of Sachs' Orthodox religious tendencies. In Berlin Steinschneider gave private lessons, preached sermons, officiated at weddings, and engaged in occasional work as a translator and author of textbooks for the elementary study of Hebrew. In 1848 he received Prussian citizenship.

In 1859, he received his first regular appointment as lecturer at the Veitel-Heine-Ephraimsche Lehranstalt, where he taught for 48 years. Many of his students later became prominent Jewish scholars, including I. *Goldziher, Solomon *Schechter, Ḥayyim *Brody, Judah L. *Magnes, H. *Malter, A. *Marx, George A. *Kohut. From 1860 to 1869, he was in charge of administering the *oath more judaico, the Jewish oath. Another regular appointment came in 1869, when Stein schneider became assistant at the Berlin Royal Library, a position he held until his death. In the same year, he also became the head of the girls' school of the Jewish community, a position from which he retired in 1890. In appreciation of his scholarly contributions, the Prussian government made him an honorary professor in 1894. Steinschneider also received several other honors from various universities and academies, including Columbia University in New York (1887). On the occasion of his 80th birthday, a Festschrift was published in his honor. Steinschneider was buried as an honorary member of the Berlin Jewish community at the Weissensee cemetery.

Steinschneider's literary output was tremendous; his bibliography contains more than 1,400 items. His main lifelong interest was the study of the relationship between Jewish and general cultures, especially during medieval times. Upon his early realization that the preliminary requirement for carrying out such studies was a thorough and scientific bibliographical record of all available printed and manuscript materials, Steinschneider devoted himself to the preparation of library catalogs and subject bibliographies. In addition to catalogs and bibliographies, he also provided general introductions to Jewish literary history and Jewish booklore. In collecting and organizing the materials for his studies on the role of the Jews in medieval culture, his research led him also to the study of the history of medieval philosophy, especially medieval medicine, the sciences, and mathematics. His works are not only a contribution to Jewish learning, but also to Arabic literature and to general medieval cultural history. Steinschneider regarded his bibliographical, philological, and Oriental studies in Jewish literature as a contribution to general cultural history, which in his opinion was the original object of world history and of all intellectual effort. With this scholarly program, he stood in the tradition of his fatherly friend Zunz.

The following works are of particular note: Die hebraeischen Uebersetzungen des Mittelalters und die Juden als Dolmetscher (1893), his magnum opus containing a wealth of information based on manuscripts and printed sources in many languages about the transmission of philosophy and the sciences throughout the Middle Ages. It also shows how classical Greek knowledge reached Europe and Western culture through the intervention of Arabic and Hebrew writers. Die arabischen Uebersetzungen aus dem Griechischen (1897) and Die europaeischen Uebersetzungen aus dem Arabischen (1904–05) supplemented this work and carried its subject far beyond purely Jewish interests. These three works together provided a pioneering contribution to the understanding of Western civilization's dependence on classical sources and the contribution of Muslim and Jewish civilizations to them.

Another of Steinschneider's major works, Die Arabische Literatur der Juden (1902), lists all of the Jewish authors who wrote in Arabic and includes detailed biographies and bibliographies. His lectures on the same subject appeared in English in the Jewish Quarterly Review (1897–1901). A further work dealing with the relationships between Jews, Arabs, and Christians is his Polemische und apologetische Literatur in arabischer Sprache zwischen Muslimen, Christen und Juden (1877). Not only is the typical full bibliographical and biographical apparatus provided in this work, but it also classifies and enumerates the main areas of religious controversy. Steinschneider's unbelievable industry and erudition also manifested itself in a series of catalogs and bibliographies, among which the most important is his Catalogus Librorum Hebraeorum in Bibliotheca Bodleiana (1852–60). Upon the request of the chief librarian of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, Steinschneider prepared a catalog of all the printed books up to 1732 in that great library over a period of many years, during which time the library was also dynamically enriching its Hebrew collections through the acquisition of important private libraries. Over the course of five summers in Oxford, Steinschneider described all the Hebrew items there, at which time he also made generous use of all the Hebrew manuscript materials. The catalog is arranged according to the name of the authors (with the exception of anonymous works), gives all the available information on their lives, and is followed by a list of their works and all the references to them in the secondary literature available at that time. At the end follows a list of all printers, patrons, etc., who were associated with the publication of the works, as well as a geographical index providing the Hebrew forms of many geographical names. With this book, Steinschneider raised Hebrew bibliography to a scholarly level and corrected misinformation. Steinschneider also published classic catalogs of the Hebrew manuscript collections of the following libraries: Leiden (1858), Munich (1875; 2nd ed. enlarged, 1896), Hamburg (1878, reprint with new introduction, Hellmut Braun, 1969), and Berlin (1878–97). In all of these he identified many hitherto unknown writings and historical research.

Some aspects of his detailed, painstaking research were organized into more general presentations. For the Ersch und Gruber Allgemeine Encyclopaedie, he wrote a systematic survey of Jewish literature (1850) which was translated into English (Jewish Literature from the 8th to the 18th Century, 1857) and later into Hebrew by Henry *Malter, one of his pupils (Sifrut Yisrael, 1897–99). For the same encyclopedia, he co-wrote, together with David *Cassel, Juedische Typographie und Juedischer Buchhandel (1851), a still-valuable general survey of Jewish printing and book trade. But both scholars failed to publish a planned Real-Encyclopaedie des Judentums (1843) for unknown reasons despite several years of intensive preparation. Another work of Steinschneider's which still remains the most systematic and broadest treatment of the subject, is Vorlesungen ueber die Kunde Hebraeischer Handschriften (1897; Hebrew translations, with additions by A.M. Habermann Harẓa'ot al Kitvei Yad Ivriyyim, 1965; also printed in Aresheth, 84 (1966)). Also significant are his contributions to the history of the study of the Hebrew language and his work on Jewish writers of history and historiography (Die Geschichtsliteratur der Juden, 1905). Finally, he published the journal Ha-Mazkir (Hebraeische Bibliographie. Blaetter fuer neuere und aeltere Literatur des Judentums, 1858–65, 1869–81) to which he contributed more than 500 articles concerning bibliography, library history, booklore, philology and cultural history.

Steinschneider's major works were reprinted several times in their original form in the 1930s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s; the last reprinting of his Bodleian Catalog dates from 1998. Unfortunately, the author's own numerous additions and corrections to his works, as preserved in the copies of his works at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, as well as other new materials, were not incorporated into these reprints. In the early 2000s, a web-based translation and revision of the Hebraeische Uebersetzungen des Mittelalters was in preparation by Charles H. Manekin (University of Maryland) in collaboration with Y. Tzvi Langermann (Bar-Ilan University), and Hans Heinrich Biesterfeld (Bochum University).

Steinschneider spent most of his life in the pursuit of his great scholarly projects, but he also wrote some lighter belletristic and journalistic works. He also commented – though rarely – on the major contemporary events of his day and for a while was actively involved in a society founded by his friend Abraham *Benisch, the aim of which was the promotion of Jewish resettlement in Ereẓ Israel. He withdrew from the group in the early 1840s and later assumed a very negative attitude toward political Zionism. However, he welcomed the 1848 Revolution in Germany, and even helped to build barricades in Berlin, but shied away from radicals. Steinschneider published some letters by Hirsch B. Fassel, dealing with Samson R. *Hirsch's religious views (Hereb Zion, 1839); for this edition he wrote under the pen name of M.S. Charbona, adding some of his own remarks that revealed his position toward the Reform movement, about which he maintained a rather conservative view, particularly in his advocacy of the Hebrew language in the synagogue and in Jewish scholarly literature. In this publication, he formulated his views on the tasks and methods of Jewish scholarship, aiming for objective truth and impartial research as well as the creation of the scholarly foundations of Jewish learning. He vehemently rejected superficial attempts at popularization and the replacement of original research by empty phrases. He also opposed, like Zunz, *rabbinical seminaries as centers of scholarly research, fearing the introduction of theological considerations into what he considered to be pure, objective scholarship.


G.A. Kohut, in: Festschrift… M. Steinschneider (1896), v–xxxix; idem, A Tribute to his Eighty-Fourth Birthday (1900); idem, A Tribute Written on the Occasion of his 90th Birthday (1906); idem, in: Studies in Jewish Bibliography and Related Subjects (1929), 65–127; idem, in: mgwj, 78 (1934), 211–32; A. Golderg, in: zhb, 5 (1901), 189–91; 9 (1905), 90–92; 13 (1909), 94–95; F.H. Garrison, in: Sudhoffs Archiv fuer Geschichte der Medizin, 25 (1932), 249–78; A. Marx, Essays in Jewish Biography (1947), 112–84, incl. extensive bibl. up to 1947, 294–6; idem, in: Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (1944), 346–68; idem, in paajr, 5 (1934), 95–153; idem, in: Jewish Studies in the Memory of Georg A. Kohut (1935), 492–527; S. Baron, in: Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume (1950), 83–148 (English section) (reprint in: idem, History and Jewish Historians (1964), 276–312); P.O. Kristeller, in: paajr, 27 (1958), 59–66; F. Rosenthal, ibid., 67–81; J. Dienstag, in: Sinai, 66 (1970), 347–66; A. Paucker, in: ylbi, 11 (1966), 242–61; K. Wilhelm, in: blbi, 1 (1957), 35–42. add. bibliography: Wurzbach, Biographisches Lexikon des Kaisertums Oesterreich, 38 (1878), 160–67; S. Schechter, in: Seminary Addresses and Other Papers (1915), 119–24; S. Almoni, in: Ost und West (1907), 181–86; I. Elbogen/A. Goldberg, in: azj, 13 (1916), 149–54; I. Elbogen, in: Soncino-Blaetter, 1 (1925–1926), 155–58; I. Schorsch, in: huca, 53 (1982), 241–64; J. Ziegler, in: Medieval Encounters, 3/1 (1997) 94–102; L. Fuks, in: Studia Rosenthaliana, 13/1 (1979), 45–100; M. Steinschneider; Briefwechsel mit seiner Verlobten Auguste Auerbach (1995); M.L. Steinschneider, in: Archiv Bibliographia Judaica, 2–3 (1990), 195–210; H.I. Schmelzer, in: Occident and Orient (1988), 319–29; Ch. H. Manekin, in: jsq, 7/2 (2000), 141–59.

[Menahem Schmelzer /

Gregor Pelger (2nd ed.)]