London; Vienna: Carl Fromme, 1905. First edition. Hardcover. Elephant folio. 546pp. 1/4 cloth over paper covered boards of the time with white lettering to spines. Volume IV of four volumes containing 'masoretic notes from numerous manuscripts and early printed editions of the Bible, rearranged in alphabetical order and translated into English with frequent introductory notations by Ginsburg' (after Harry M. Orlinsky). In English, with Hebrew insertions. Library plate to spine. Head and tail of spine slightly bumped. Water staining, scuffing, rubbing and discoloration to boards. End papers crumbled. Library stamp to title page: "Hebrew Union College. Jewish Institute of Religion Library." Slightly wavy through first third of book from exposure to water. Minor tears to page edges, not affecting text. Starting at page 1b. Some pages loose but present. Binding in overall fair, interior in very good condition.
On the author: Christian David Ginsburg (1831-1914), Jewish scholar, born in Warsaw on 25 December 1831. Coming to England shortly after the completion of his education in the Rabbinic College at Warsaw, Ginsburg continued his study of the Hebrew Scriptures, with special attention to the Megillot. The first result of these studies was a translation of the Song of Songs, with a historical and critical commentary, published in 1857. A similar translation of Ecclesiastes, followed by treatises on the Karaites, the Essenes, and the Kabbala, kept the author prominently before biblical students while he was preparing the first sections of his magnum opus, the critical study of the Massorah. Beginning in 1867 with the publication of Jacob ben Hayyim's Introduction to the Rabbinic Bible, Hebrew and English, with notices, and the Massoreth HaMassoreth of Elias Levita, in Hebrew, with translation and commentary, Ginsburg took rank as an eminent Hebrew scholar. In 1870 he was appointed one of the first members of the committee for the revision of the English version of the Old Testament.
The work at-hand is considered his life work: The publication of the Massorah, in three volumes (1880-1886), in Hebrew, followed by the one-volume English edition in 1905. Ginsburg had one predecessor in the field, the learned Jacob ben Hayyim (or: Jacob ben Chajim), who in 1524-1525 published the second Rabbinic Bible, containing what has ever since been known as the Massorah; but neither were the materials available nor was criticism sufficiently advanced for a complete edition. Ginsburg took up the subject almost where it was left by those early pioneers, and collected portions of the Massorah from the countless manuscripts scattered throughout Europe and the East. Ginsburg published Facsimiles of Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (1897 and 1898), and The Text of the Hebrew Bible in Abbreviations (1903), in addition to a critical treatise on the relationship of the so-called Codex Babylonicus of A.D. 916 to the Eastern Recension of the Hebrew Text (1899, for private circulation). In the last-mentioned work he seeks to prove that the St. Petersburg Codex, for so many years accepted as the genuine text of the Babylonian school, is in reality a Palestinian text carefully altered so as to render it conformable to the to the Babylonian recension. He subsequently undertook the preparation of a new edition of the Hebrew Bible for the British and Foreign Bible Society. He also contributed many articles to J. Kitto's Encyclopedia, W. Smith's Dictionary of Christian Biography, and the Encyclopedia Britannica. [from Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed. (1911) Volume V12, p. 29] On the Massorah in general: "It is well known that the received text of the Hebrew Bible is called the Massoretic, i.e., printed according to the Massorah. Now, the Massorah is a marginal directory, indicating (...) how the letters, words and phrases are to be written, according to the most ancient rules laqaid down by those who compiled, preserved, and transmitted the canon of the Old Testament Scriptures(...). This invaluable key to the text of the old testament is called Massorah (tradition) because it was traditionally transmitted by the authorized and professional scribes, who afterwards committed it to writing." (from the introduction pasted-in to the first volume) It was primarily compiled, edited and distributed by a group of Jews known as the Masoretes between the seventh and tenth centuries CE. The oldest manuscripts containing substantial parts of the Masoretic Text known to still exist date from approximately the ninth century, and the Aleppo Codex dates from the tenth century. In the first half of the tenth century Aaron ben Moses ben Asher and Moshe ben Naphtali (often just called ben Asher and ben Naphtali) were the leading Masoretes in Tiberias. Ben Asher wrote a standard codex (the Aleppo Codex) embodying his opinions. Probably Ben Naphtali did too, but it has not survived. [from the Jewish Encyclopedia, see below]
On this work [from: Library of Biblical Studies, see below]: Ginsburg's work is a critical edition of the Massorah, and as such it relies heavily on the two standard works preceding it, i.e. Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonijah's second Blomberg edition of the Bible and Elijah Levita's Massoreth ha-Massoroth (Tiberias, 1538). Whereas Elijah Levita had a primarily grammatical approach, Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonijah was associated more directly with the manuscripts themselves. . "The sort of thing that Ibn Adonijah did is what Ginsburg did in his massive collection of The Massorah in four volumes, imperial folio (1881-1905). [the work at hand]. There are no indications where any notes came from, or the date origin and history of the manuscripts. Nobody in the 16th century ever thought of doing this (...). There had to be a beginning at some time, and this beginning was made by Jacob ben Chayyim; Ginsburg has rightly said that Jacob 'rescued the Massorah from perdition'. Something of the same kind can be said of Ginsburg." (ibid., p. XI) Even though Ginsburg claims to follow Jacob ben Hayyim's work, which came to be recognized as the true masoretic text, very closely, it differs often from it. Hence, it is actually a recension of Ginsburg, that incorporates 75 other codices as well. "The great question is: How are we to obtain a true, accurate masoretic text? In the Prolegomenon by Professor Harry M. Orlinsky in the KTAV Publishing House reissue of Ginsburg's Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (...) he says (p. XV) that "none can claim to being the masoretic text," buth there can be a masoretic text." (T)here is no (...) unified, authoritative Masorah. This can be seen in Ginsburg's massive four-volume compilation." [ibid. p. XIV]. Item #14735
Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition (1911) Jewish Encyclopedia (online) Orlinsky, Harry M. (ed.): The Library of Biblical Studies (Ktav Publishing House: New York. 1968 [First published 1867]). Prolegomenon by Norman H. Snaith (p. VII-XXXVI).