Zarko (Zarka), Joseph ben Judah

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ZARKO (Zarka), JOSEPH BEN JUDAH (14th–15th centuries), Hebrew grammarian and poet in *Spain and *Italy. Zarko was one of the pupils of Profiat *Duran. Apparently in consequence of the 1391 persecutions in Spain he wandered to various towns of Italy, and in 1413 he lived in Pisa and subsequently in the towns of Modena, Ferrara, Cento, Ancona, and Mantua. He apparently died in Mantua. In Italy he engaged in writing and was supported by wealthy patrons, such as Jehiel b. Mattathias of *Pisa and the brothers Isaac and Mordecai *Finzi of Mantua. In practice he was one of the disseminators among the Jews of Italy of the Hebrew poetry and grammatical studies that had developed in Spain.

He was the author of Rav Pe'alim, written in 1429, a grammar of the Hebrew language which was frequently copied; and Ba'al ha-Lashon, a Hebrew dictionary after the manner of the Sefer ha-Shorashim of David *Kimḥi. Poems and letters of his are also extant. Some scholars have erroneously identified him with Joseph b. Isaac Zarko, the teacher of Abraham Portaleone.


Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 404; D. Kaufmann, in: rej, 37 (1898), 306f.; idem, in: mgwj, 43 (1899), 136–44; S. Poznański, ibid., 50 (1906), 624; S. Simonsohn, Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Dukkasut Mantovah, 2 (1964), 516.

[Abraham David]