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The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Louis Littman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization L. T. S. LITTMAN In order to give any reasonably truthful account of the inception and execution of the publishing venture known as the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, I will, as its Founder, have to say something about the germination of the idea in my own head, and the means taken to realize it. I must, therefore, give a short account of some aspects of my youth, since its particular circumstances have a strong bearing on the inception of the Library, as well as the character it has taken. Although I was born in London, my formative years were spent in Brighton where, between the ages of seven and thirteen, I was a pupil in one of those Anglo-Jewish boarding schools, formed on the model of existing preparatory schools, which educate middle-class children for the public schools. It delighted in the name of Aryeh House School, and was situated at the eastern end of Regency Brighton, in Sussex Square. Its curriculum was based on that followed by hundreds of preparatory schools up and down the country. Apart from the inefficiency of its teaching, the only way it differed from most of them was that instead of morning prayers being held according to the Anglican rite in chapel or hall, we had morning and evening prayers in the largest classroom, in Hebrew, according to the Minhag of the Singer's Prayer Book. Our playing fields were on the Downs at the back of Kemp Town. It was on their slopes that we played football and cricket, and between Brighton Racecourse and Roedean that we were taken on long rambling walks or learned to ride. One of my abiding memories is of trooping down those hills in football shorts and jerseys on the way back to school with the rest of the two opposing teams into which we had been divided, with frozen hands and feet. Another is the sight of the Channel below us, with, as often as not, the sun like a great ball of fire sinking into it while the sky glowed in a sea of red and gold. One other difference was that Saturday, not Sunday, was our Sabbath, and on that morning we dressed up in our best, wearing blue caps with white badges in winter, and straw boaters with blue ribands in summer. Having been marshalled into crocodile lines, we were led off by two of our Form Masters, along the Marine Parade towards the Pavilion, and from there-along one of those little lanes which must have been familiar to the Prince Regent, to Sheridan, to Fox, to Creevey, and to a host of others a century and a quarter before, who had lived, intrigued and been entertained in an ambiance which, had they been able to see it in the 1930s, would have been instantly recognized by them. We trooped into the synagogue in Middle Lane, into an atmosphere aglow with warmth, light and colour and filled with gorgeous sound. The synagogue had been built in the 1870s and was superbly finished with 3ii</page><page sequence="2">L. T. S. Littman high-Victorian ironwork, brass and mahogany. Its Cantor was the Reverend Brill and it always seemed to me to be packed. No doubt between sixty and eighty pupils from our school helped in that respect. The staff of the school was non-Jewish, save the Principal (who owned it) and his family who lived there with him, and one master who, in addition to his other duties, taught us Hebrew and took prayers. The Jewish instruction was somewhat limited, but within limits was probably quite thorough. We could read and write Hebrew, without understanding too much of it. Emphatically we did not speak it. We all knew some of the Bible, particularly Genesis, with the aid of which we had been taught Hebrew. We were familiar with the Jewish year and its round of festivals, and were subconsciously saturated with Jewish thought through the daily round of prayer. I do not suppose, however, that the Talmud, Jewish philosophy or Jewish mysticism meant anything to us, and though we all knew of Jewish colonization in Palestine, I do not recall any of us being urged to settle there. Latterly we heard of Nazis in Germany, and a sprinkling of German boys, older than us, whom we regarded a little superciliously as foreigners, began to arrive. This school enabled me to grow up quite unselfconsciously English and Jewish, without being aware of anything incompatible between them. One was my country and the other my religion. Naturally I was aware that most English people were not Jews, but there seemed nothing incongruous in Judaism being practised daily in Regency Brighton, and on the edge of the Sussex Downs. I do not know when the Victorian epoch, in its impact on people, really came to an end. But, on looking back, I think that to have been brought up in a little preparatory school in Regency Brighton in the 1930s was to have been brought up almost within that epoch, which came to an end for me in 1939 with the outbreak of War. After the excitement of digging trenches in days punctuated by Air Raid Alarms, I found myself, at thirteen, packed off for a six-weeks visit to relations in New York. It was a ruse of my parents, and to my dismay it lasted four years. My reaction was immediate. I simply did not like the place. It was foreign in a way I did not like, and my mind became absolutely closed to the virtues of everything American. Almost immediately I finished my formal schooling, which coincided with the height of the U-Boat War, I ran away to sea to join the Merchant Navy. When I eventually got back to England, no one could tell from my speech that I had ever left it. A further thought took somewhat longer to form in my mind, After attending a succession of schools in New York and Long Island, it dawned on me that, apart from the rudiments of science, I was unlikely to receive much formal education in America, and would therefore have to educate myself. I then found, in the public library there, three great series which contained, between them, a good selection of Classical literature and history. It was through the Everyman's Library, the Loeb Classics and the Harvard Classics that I eventually found my way round the world of history and literature. But I 312</page><page sequence="3">The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization had to start without assistance in unknown fields and did not at first know where to start and on what plan to proceed. I decided, therefore, to begin with the earliest books and work my way forward, through Classical literature, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, until I came to modern times. I followed this course, varying it only by interweaving a novel of Dickens or Thackeray between say, Herodotus and Livy, so as not to remain ignorant of England and English literature while I was immersing myself in the history and literature of the Classical world. Gradually I found that the picture of the world I acquired from one book led on, often through its footnotes, to other books and other world pictures, and that these slowly built up into an image of a golden chain of men, ideas and events, stretching from Antiquity to the present time. Following the chronological order I had adopted, I started with the Bible, reading it from cover to cover in the King James version. It is not unknown for boys to experience intense religious feeling in their mid-teens, and it certainly happened to me. Whether my reading caused it or simply strengthened an existing impulse, I cannot tell. The ideas that poured into my head from reading the Pentateuch, the Psalms, the Prophets and the other scriptural writings were not unfamiliar to me, but they burst with much greater force than before, and formed the core of a religion whose vaguer outlines had been familiar to me from early childhood. My faith grew, despite the lack of formal Jewish education after the age of thirteen and the fact that I lived without any contact with a Jewish community. No sooner, however, had I acquired a religion based on the Jewish Bible, than I put it to the test by reading the New Testament. I did so with no little trepidation, I knew that in doing so I would be risking upsetting the seemingly comprehensive Weltanschauung I had so recently acquired. But the Jews formed only a minute part of the Western world and it was not possible for me to isolate myself mentally from the influences which filled the minds of the great majority in my world. What was more, I reasoned to myself, if I was not prepared to confront any other religious or secular systems with my own faith, what good was Judaism to me? Besides, my mind was already possessed by a desire to seek out objective truth, and ignorance was never a valid option for me. Indeed it would have been an act of disbelief: so I did then what I later did vis-?-vis Darwinism and Atheistic Marxism. I confronted the adversary head on, and read the New Testament in the King James version. When I had finished I was filled with a sense of joy, for I found that instead of being sapped by this confrontation, my Jewish faith had been immeasurably strengthened. Without the benefit of teachers or commentators I had come to the conclusion that the New Testament was composed of what were essentially two parts, an inner core of religious and ethical teaching, profound and beautiful, which was the distillation of the soul of a man who was in every way fit to be ranked as a Prophet of Israel; and an artificial framework for it, based on obvious plagiarism of the Jewish Bible joined to arbitrary fanciful and deliberate misinterpretations of its contents, the whole cemented with fragments of 313</page><page sequence="4">L. T. S. Littman religious theories totally opposed to many fundamental assumptions of Judaism and laced with an anti-Jewish spirit which assorted ill with the ostensible view of the compilers, that Jews had been God's peculiarly favoured people for one and a half millennia, and that their Scriptures contained God's Revelation to mankind. In short, I was left dumbfounded and astonished at how the Western world had, for over 80 generations, based its religious faith on a document which struck a mere sixteen-year-old boy as a contrivance to justify a new religion by utilizing and misrepresenting the traditions of an older one. I think that I then first drew the conclusion that weight of numbers signified nothing in the quest for truth, and that although Jewry was for nearly two millennia a tiny, scattered and often persecuted entity, and Christianity and Islam religions of great empires, that did not mean that their religious doctrines were closer to truth than were ours. The three series of publications I mentioned enabled me to read literature, starting with Homer and going on to Virgil; history through works of Livy, Herodotus and Thucydides; moral philosophy through Aristotle and Plato; and, later, the Greek dramatists. At seventeen I read Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which gave me a comprehensive view of the ancient Mediterranean world in Classical times, and showed how Christianity and Islam arose on its ruins. Later I went to Trinity College, Cambridge, to study Law. I remember wondering whether my desultory reading would leave me at a disadvantage compared to my fellows, who had presumably enjoyed good teachers and the routine of public school. I need not have worried. But it merely remained a matter of regret that I never found friends at university with whom I could discuss Homer or Dante, Gibbon or Dr Johnson, or discuss the origins of Christianity or Islam. Perhaps if I had read Classics or History instead of Law, I might have had better luck, but I somehow doubt it. At Trinity, I kept up my desultory reading of the classics. I also read a good deal of Christian literature, for various reasons. My study of medieval law, through the works of Stubbs, Pollock and Maitland, led me to medieval Christian culture as a whole. I steadily ploughed my way through the books of St Augustine, Aquinas, Hooker and Jeremy Taylor, as well as Milman's History of the Jews. A further reason was that I had fallen into the habit of reading moral and religious philosophy, as an accompaniment to my other branches of learning. Such an approach would have been natural to the men of the seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, so many of whose attitudes I had come to share. Moreover, as I was still virtually outside the organized Jewish Community, and as we had almost no Jewish library at home and my understanding of Hebrew was slim, I was unaware of the existing Jewish books in English which, relatively few though they then were, might have formed the staple of my religious reading. In consequence I acquired a good deal of Jewish knowledge through the medium of Christian theology and historical writing, developing, as I went along, a fairly unerring ability to differentiate between doctrines which were 314</page><page sequence="5">The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization common to both Judaism and Christianity, and doctrines which were peculiar to the latter faith. My grounding in the Bible and in the Singer's Prayer Book must be responsible for the fact that I had an instinctive disbelief for most specifically Christian doctrines and even felt a sense of repulsion for some of them, as I certainly did for the violent language and tendentious argument so often employed by Christian polemicists. I now realize that this method of acquiring Jewish knowledge seems to have more than a little in common with that adopted by Spanish and Portuguese marranos in the 17th century. As I read the Christian view of Jewish history and religion, I felt a sense of growing outrage. Here was an ancient people-to whom I happened to belong-whose religion and literature had evoked wonder and admiration for the first 1800 years or so of their history, subsequently held up to scorn and vilification, and become the object of the most dreadful and drawn-out persecution known to man by sectarians who had appropriated their literature, their religion and their name. And all this simply because that ancient people had stoutly refused to agree to an interpretation of their religious traditions which ran counter to principles contained within them, and to accept an arbitrary misinterpretation of their Scriptures which made nonsense of their own history and their religion. But I found no literature in general circulation, in English at any rate, which effectively challenged what I felt was the preposterous, if generally held view, that the Jews since Jesus had produced no literature, nor any body of thought worthy of the name, and that the scattered communities, still calling themselves after the name of their spiritual ancestors, were nothing but a pack of low-principled hucksters devoid of true religious feeling and incapable of creating or even participating in a lofty civilization without first abandoning their own stubbornly held, materialistic and primitive notions of religion; while the true spirit of Judaism was now only to be seen in sectarians who periodically slaughtered them, as well as each other, and condemned the survivors to a life in appalling conditions. Nor was I aware of any literature which gave an effective account of the beliefs, culture and life of Jews over the last 1800 years which showed that, scattered, beleaguered and sometimes persecuted though they had been, they had yet had their prosperous enterprising and productive periods, and played a singular part in the great Western civilization whose moral and religious basis had been formed from their own literature. I confess that at that time I had only the vaguest notion of what that literature consisted of, nor could I say whether it did, in fact, have the quality I assumed and expected. I assumed it was there, only waiting for its splendour to be revived for a modern generation by translation into modern languages, particularly into English, simply because I could not believe that a people who had shown themselves, century after century, so ready to die for their faith, could have failed to have had a continuous infusion of the Divine Spirit within them, keeping them spiritually alive in those sometimes terrible centuries, and 315</page><page sequence="6">L. T. S. Littman enabling them to survive with unextinguishable hope and vitality. It was then that I first began to form the resolution to do something, I did not then know quite what, nor when I would start to try, in a modest way, to rectify this situation. And then came reports of the Holocaust. At first it was unbelievable, so appalling were the reports, and I wanted to disbelieve that the destruction of life was as complete and devastating as first reports indicated. But as time went on it became apparent that the reality of murder, cruelty and destruction exceeded anything feared, indeed it exceeded in its horror anything hitherto known to mankind. I had no more doubt then than I do now, that this appalling slaughter and indescribable cruelty was the culmination of two millennia of malevolent hate-imbued Christian propaganda. Nor that Christendom, by finally giving way to this unrestrained attempt to realize by deed what its Priests and Monks had incessantly preached and prayed for, had thereby given itself its own death blow. Meanwhile one-third of our people had been murdered and the rest were faced with total eclipse as a people, as a result of assimilation. I thought that it lay with the survivors, each of them contributing according to his means, his talents and his inclinations, to regenerate the people and the religious culture of Israel, and that, whatever else I might do, I would one day aim to bring the Jewish Heritage to young English and American Jews who, like myself, were growing up and assimilating themselves to a world in which Jewish knowledge and values were rapidly disappearing. The Holocaust turned me into a Zionist, and I sought books which explained the Zionist position. Returning to London to pursue my legal education, I discovered the East &amp; West Library, published by Horowitz, the founder of the Phaidon Press. These not merely introduced me to some of the Jewish classics, they also suggested what I was going to do. I would publish Jewish classics not in anthologies, but in a complete form. I would continue where the East &amp; West Library had started, but more thoroughly, even if this would prove less popular. I would postulate the existence of lots of young men similar to myself, going to Universities and keen on the pursuit of an all-round culture, who were totally assimilated in all but religious belief to the people and culture of the lands of their birth, but were unable to attain knowledge of their own religion to a level of sophistication equal to their knowledge of the other arts and sciences because of the insufficiency of books in their own language on the subject. These were the readers I wanted to catch. The years passed, I became involved with various aspects of the Jewish community and, through teachers like Joseph Heller, who painstakingly took me through Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed, and Dr Loewenstam and others, I became much more familiar with Bible and philosophy. The day came, in about 1959 or i960, when I had the means to carry out the project. My father had died and I conceived the idea of dedicating the whole project to his memory. I decided to call it The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization after him. But how to start? Dr Louis Jacobs was my rabbi, friend and neighbour, and was 316</page><page sequence="7">The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization very willing to act as adviser; but the total resources available to me at that time were a learned friend, an idea and some money I was ready to commit to the venture. The first step was to get a publisher, obviously a Jewish one, but that proved far from easy. First of all, many Jewish publishers were not keen on publishing books of Jewish philosophy and religion. I remember George Weidenfeld, as he then was, taking me to the Cafe Royal in 1959 in compensation for having been so elusive, and telling me that apart from books on Zionism, he had no interest in publishing Jewish books. Still more unpalatable was that the Jewish Library would be under the control of myself and any editor who advised me, and would not be a vehicle for what the publisher wished. What publishers were looking for was a fund to help publish this or that book to which they were already committed, but feared would not sell. They were quite unwilling to publish a series under its own name, and with its own autonomous personnel. Another difficulty was the aversion Jewish publishers appeared to have for Jewish religion. Offer them a cookery book, an erotic novel, a thriller, a volume of left-wing or socialist theory, a run-through of some obscure religious sects, or the memoirs of a successful Israeli general, and there would be no difficulty in securing publication. But a series of books on Jewish religion, even if the costs were covered, was not something they were willing to be associated with. The usual answer I received was that no one would buy them because Jews did not buy books on Jewish religion, and non-Jews would certainly not buy them. For most of the community this argument, I discovered, was true; but there was a certain market for books of this type,and since the risk was not going to fall on the publishers, I did not believe this opinion was the real cause of their refusal. I think one must go deeper into the psyche of the average publisher who happens to be a Jew. As a young man in that trade at that time, he would almost certainly have been a man professing what he would have called 'progressive views'. That implied being a man of the left, espousing socialist, political and social theories and possibly advanced, or in more old-fashioned language, licentious moral standards. These views implied ignorance of and distaste for religion, particularly that professed by one's parents, and hostility to traditional values. In that way one could successfully be regarded as avant-garde, progressive and everything else that so many intellectuals found it desirable to be considered in the 1960s. If one wanted to show the outside world what Jewish culture was, one could take a vicarious pride in the Kibbutz, the Israeli Army, the Hebrew University and the progressive way of life taught in left-wing secular Israeli schools. The attitude may have changed, in that the objects of secular left-wing enthusiasms are not quite what they were, but I doubt if attitudes to the Jewish religion have changed in any way. I seem to recall that it was George Weidenfeld who suggested that I organize a Book Club on the lines of the Jewish Publication Society of America, and I was given an introduction to the Readers Union. This interesting exercise would 317</page><page sequence="8">L. T. S. Littman have involved a subscription of ?7 to ?8 per year, for which members would have received four books a year. But the costs of running such an organization would be prohibitive, and there was no guarantee of finding a readership even on that basis. A book club devoted to angling, bicycling, nature study, or any one of 100 hobbies,would succeed, I was told, but not one on the Jewish religion. My interlocutor then asked-presumably he could not otherwise understand my insistence on wanting to publish Jewish books-whether I had any of my own writings I wished to have published. Finally someone suggested that I should contact Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul, who had published the Service of the Synagogue fifty years before, and presumably had not suffered great losses. They also had a Jewish director. I therefore met them and explained my scheme at length. My proposals were that I would guarantee them against loss, that I would choose the titles, the quality of paper, print and binding and that the books would come out in a distinctive binding and jacket, to constitute an easily identifiable series. I met their full board sometime in 1962, explaining my proposal to them and having to wait only a few days before being notified of their acceptance. I learned afterwards that the project was hotly debated and was accepted only because of the warm advocacy of Sir Herbert Read, one of the two Gentiles on the Board. So I had found a publisher. A little later, in 1963, Colin Franklin, the Routledge director with whom I worked amicably for the next few years, recommended me to engage Dr David Goldstein, then a rabbi at St John's Wood Liberal Synagogue, as a general editor. Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs had been associated with me from the moment we started, but could not give much time to detailed work on it. I suspect also that Colin Franklin was a little afraid that without further editorial advice I would be under Louis Jacobs' influence and publish only rabbinical works, which he thought were too esoteric and would not sell very well. I then set up a charitable trust, and so had three of the four ingredients required to publish books: a legal framework, an editorial team and a publishing house. All we lacked were authors, and books. Louis Jacobs had compiled a list of books which he thought it desirable to have translated, and Colin Franklin and I discussed it. The religious element predominated, as did the rabbinical. Two were eventually published, though with different translators, but eight have not been. 1 Selections from the Babylon and Palestine Talmuds (To be translated by Louis Jacobs) 2 Bahya's Duties of the Heart (translated by Stern) 3 Rosenzweig's Star of Redemption (translated by Maybaum and Miller) 4 Nachmanides' Commentary to the Pentateuch (translated by R. Loewe) The next six proposed were: 1 The Tanya 2 History of Hasidism 3 Selections from the Aggadic Midrashim 318</page><page sequence="9">The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization 4 Cordovero's Pardess 5 Krochmal's Guide 6 TheSiddur Colin thought it was weighted too much on religion, and suggested that Bernard Lewis and Richard Baraett should be appointed as advisers. They were asked, but refused. We found it even more difficult to find Jewish authors and translators of the type we were looking for than it had been to find a publisher. There were, I think, several reasons for this. Firstly, there were not many scholars interested in the type of books we wished to have translated. Secondly, we were unknown, and some scholars who might have been prepared to accept terms from Oxford University Press or from Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul, with their fairly non-Jewish associations, were not willing to have their books published in an obviously Jewish series. Perhaps they felt it would limit their readership. More likely that if they were to appear in such a series, their learned colleagues might consider their work fell short of the standard required by a general publisher for a non-exclusively Jewish readership. Finally, we had determined to insist on translators being able to write decently in English, and even made it a condition, to ensure this, that they be British born. As with most high-sounding principles, it had to be modified to be made to work, and in the end we obtained excellent translations and original works from people born in Germany, Egypt and even America. As a result, we found ourselves with nothing to publish. Then David Goldstein, with some diffidence, mentioned that he had been preparing an anthology of Hebrew poems from Spain. Would I be interested? A difficulty arose from its being somewhat unusual for an editor to put forward his own work, but I read it, liked it, agreed that it should be published by us, and it went to press. It is interesting, so many years afterwards, to record the judgment of our publishers on this first venture. Colin Franklin's verdict was that poetry did not sell and that the book would lose money. It was his opinion that we would not sell more than 350 copies. Nevertheless, in 1961 we came out with an edition of 2000, sold 900 to Schocken in America, and had sold out by 19 71, when it was re-published as a Penguin Classic paperback in an edition of at least 20,000. That sold out too and Penguin issued a second edition. Some poetry, evidently does sell. The book also won the Jewish Chronicle Book Award for that year, so was an auspicious beginning for the Library. It is relevant to mention the aims of the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, as they were set out in 1966 on the jacket of the first book of the series. The aim of the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization is to present to the English-speaking public a selection of some of the finest products of the Jewish religious and literary genius. It is hoped that this Library will help to encourage a revival of interest in a religious and literary Heritage, much of which has been virtually closed to those unfamiliar with the language in which it is 319</page><page sequence="10">L. T. S. Littman enshrined. Most of the volumes to be published will be translations from the original Hebrew, but translations of major works of Jewish interest in other languages are also contemplated. Many of the books in the Series will appear in English for the first time. Other books, though previously translated, will be published in the Library either because the older editions are virtually unobtainable by a new reading public, or because it is felt that the original works merit a fresh and more complete translation. The general intention is to provide a good modern English rendering of the original work, together with sufficient notes to clarify the subject for the interest of non-specialist readers. A few new works will also be included where these are thought able to take a not undistinguished place among other volumes of the Series. Jewish literature is both vast and varied. It consists of History, Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Poetry and Fiction, as well as Homiletical and Theological writings. It can glory in a Tradition which spans three millennia from the earliest strata of the Bible to our own times. It is hoped that the final result of the Library will be a wide-ranging and well balanced picture of the Jewish religious and literary achievement which followed the closing of the Biblical Canon. When that was written we had six works commissioned. So limited was my knowledge of Jewish literature, and such was the restricted idea I had formed of the possibility of commissioning new work, that I did not expect the Series to exceed twelve or fifteen volumes. That was about the number of classical works I considered worthy of translation, together with the few original works I thought it possible to commission. But suitable works were still not easy to come by. Nor were suitable translators available. We discovered that when we or our publishers met scholars here, in Israel or in America, and tried to interest them in one of our projected titles, they would be met by a counter-proposal for my Trust to subsidize their projects. It was somewhat disappointing. Under these circumstances, and following Norman Franklin's suggestion, we were prepared to branch out, and agreed to cooperate with the Jewish Publication Society of America by publishing for the United Kingdom and Commonwealth markets a translation of Abraham ibn Daud's Book of Tradition, translated by Gershon Cohen. This led us to cooperate in a similar way with various American university presses, which resulted in our being able to publish some of the leading Jewish books of our time, such as Werblowsky's translation of Gershon Scholem's Sabbetai Sevi, Alexander Altmann's Moses Mendelssohn, Hallo's translation of Franz Rosenzweig's Star of Redemption, and Irving Howe's World of our Fathers, whose title we changed to Immigrant Jews of New York. By entering into these arrangements, and transcending our earlier self-imposed limitations, we gained wider recognition which, in turn, made it less difficult to attract the translators and the new titles we ourselves wished to commission. But all this took time. By 1969, three years after the publication of our first title, we had published only three books: Hebrew Poems from Spain, Meditation of the Sad Soul (a medieval philosophical book written under 320</page><page sequence="11">The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization neo-platonist influence by the Spaniard Abraham bar Hayya and translated by Geoffrey Wigoder), and Ibn Daud's Book of Tradition, translated by Gershon Cohen. But we also had arrangements for five other books: Andrew Scharf s History of Byzantine Jewry, and a translation of Bahya's Duties of the Heart, which were to be published in 1971 and 1973 respectively; A History of the Jews of Persia by Walter Fischel, which was never to be written; a translation of the Sefer Hasidim by Arthur Rubin, which was never completed; and a translation by David Goldstein of the enormous Mishnat ha Zohar of Isaiah Tishby, which was only recently completed. Early in 19 71 the increase in historical works led us to appoint a history editor. An old friend, Lionel Kochan, who had been a Lecturer in History at the University of East Anglia and was to become the first Bearsted Lecturer in Jewish Studies in Warwick University, was chosen. In 1970 Colin Franklin left Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul and was succeeded by his cousin, Norman Franklin. With Colin the atmosphere was leisurely, civilized, courteous, but, I must say, slow moving. With Norman Franklin a different spirit predominated: far more productive, but also tempestuous, with, from time to time, a certain acrimony. Now that we had an organization for the production of books of Jewish scholarship, how did we choose works for publication, find authors and translators, and decide what to publish; and how was the whole operation financed? We eventually had a team of three editors, who met from time to time and corresponded frequently. We fell into the custom of circulating copies of letters any one of us wrote to one of the others, to the publisher or to authors, so that we were all aware of what was afoot with regard to books and authors, publication schedules and sometimes even finance. The editors and I had certain books which we favoured having translated. From Louis Jacobs came suggestions for books on theology, rabbinic studies and mysticism. From Lionel Kochan, books on history, and from David Goldstein, books on poetry and on general Jewish literature. I myself had widened my Jewish reading by then and from the notes of Salo Baron's 16-volume History of the Jews, and from various books on theology which I had devoured, had accumulated long lists of books and authors which I then showered on my editors with requests for their opinions on their suitability for our series. In the 1960s we had circulated to the Jewish Departments of about thirty universities in Britain, France, Israel, South Africa and the United States of America, a list of titles we wished to have translated, and this had brought some response. Our publishers also often had books presented to them which, if they thought them suitable for our series and likely to attract few readers, they passed to us. Whether these books were presented to Routledge because it was publishing our series I cannot tell, but I assume that in some cases this was the reason. Other scholars brought books or authors to our notice. My brother David, from his home in French-speaking Switzerland, drew our attention to French books. Finally scholars themselves, waking up at last to the existence of 321</page><page sequence="12">L. T. S. Littman a publishing venture dedicated to books of serious Jewish scholarship which, in the normal way, would never find a publisher, began to seek us out. How did we deal with the manuscripts of foreign language books as they arrived? If they were in English and on history, I would probably read them myself first, and then send them on to Lionel Kochan for his opinion. But they could also be sent to him first, and passed on to me with his comments. If the manuscript was on theology or rabbinical subjects it would go to Louis Jacobs for a preliminary opinion, and then end up with David Goldstein. If it was thought worthy of more detailed study by him, I would eventually get his report. If that report was favourable and the manuscript was in English, it would then be sent off for me to read. The arrangement we had was that no book in English would be published without my reading it first. Similarly I would not authorize the publication of any book to which my editors took strong exception. When we had decided to publish a particular manuscript, other than in history, it was sent to David Goldstein, who went into it in detail with the author. Then it went back to him to enable him to correct passages or rewrite parts of it, after which it went to Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul. On historical subjects the manuscript was sent to Lionel Kochan and, on occasions at my or his insistence, authors were encouraged virtually to rewrite their works. Once through this hurdle, it went to the publishers and I was given an estimate of publication costs. When that was approved, it went into production. I was very insistent, from the beginning, that the books would appear with a high quality of paper, print and binding. I was also determined not to put up with the growing sloppiness of printers in the 1970s and 1980s, which results in so many spelling and grammatical errors in quality newspapers and in books, and so I insisted that each stage of proofing should be gone through and that no short-cuts be taken. So both the author, the particular editor involved and myself were each sent the galley-proofs to correct, which we dutifully sent back to the publishers for correction, and afterwards we followed the same course with the page-proofs. The financing of this venture fell entirely on the Trust I had set up, principally for this purpose, with funds I had put at its disposal. This was not due to any proud insistence of mine to do it alone. I had, first of all, attempted to persuade my own family to join me in the venture, but they had refused. I could have tried going to the Jewish community, but felt that I would not enjoy any greater success there. I decided that my time would be better spent in making money for myself and devoting a part of it to the project I had in mind, which would probably prove easier to carry out than if I had other people to persuade at each step. Indeed I have discovered that in all the enterprises with which I have been associated, it is far better to be one's own master. One can take skilled advice whenever it is available, but when it comes to making decisions and running risks, it is best to act independently. It may sound strange that in a country with a Jewish population of about 400,000, and with access to a further 7 million English-speaking Jews, it is 322</page><page sequence="13">The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization necessary to guarantee a publisher against any loss in publishing a series on Jewish religion, history or literature, each book written by the recognized master in his field. But it went further than that, for I found myself being asked to meet a proportion of the 'overheads' or profit on the production process, as well as conceding a proportion of sales revenue. In the course of time we went through several different formulae with Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul for the funding of the publication process, having to change the formula from time to time as the costs of manufacture grew, and that formula became inequitable or downright iniquitous. But our formulae had two things in common. They provided that my Trust should pay all the production costs involved, and in addition provide a handsome profit for the publishers for supervising it. A major factor in this whole venture was the escalation of production costs during the time the series has run. Our first book, Hebrew Poems from Spain, a small volume of 172 pages, cost in 1963 ?1250 to produce. A similar-sized volume today costs some ?7000, apart from publisher's profits. Received wisdom has it that ?30 per page is the present rate on a run of 2000 copies. I suppose it can be done for less in other countries. Several reasons are adduced for this phenomenon, but I think the major cause is the necessity for paying printing operatives between ?250 and ?400 per week for their services. Another factor is that most books nowadays are paperbacks and the sale pattern that has evolved is for a limited edition of hardbacks to be produced for libraries, followed by a major edition of paperbacks at a reduced price for general publication. The hardbacks sell at four or five times the cost of paperbacks, which is totally unrelated to the difference in production costs which is not more than 15 per cent. From time to time I have tried to break free from this pattern by underpricing our books, only to find that it made little difference to sales and that reducing the revenue from books that appear to have a limited sale anyway simply results in higher investment for each book while discouraging booksellers still further. The real obstacle to publishing serious Jewish books is, quite simply, the lack of interest in them. In this country our experience has shown that the market has room for between 400 and 1400 copies of any title. I had assumed, quite wrongly, that the American market would be ten or twelve times that, in proportion to its greater population. Irving Howe's World of our Fathers, which we published here as Immigrant Jews of New York, sold 100 times more in America than in Britain, but more often the difference is only two or three times. But we were not achieving anything like that. In the early days we sold 1500 copies of a title to Schocken Books, who would retail them in America as one of their own titles, or dispose of them, say to the Jewish Publication Society of America, as they did with Hasidic Prayer. But I felt this was unsatisfactory, for not only did they pick and choose, but, as the title came out as one of their books, it brought no attention to other books in the series. We therefore changed over to selling direct, through Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul's office in Boston, but that turned out disastrously, for their manager had little knowledge 323</page><page sequence="14">L. T. S. Littman of the American Jewish book market. America remained our largest potential market, and Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul's failure to penetrate it proved eventually to be the principal reason for severing relations with them. I had to find a British firm with a major publishing outlet in America or, failing that, an American firm which would publish simultaneously in both countries. I thought I might come to an arrangement, through Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul, with Berman Books, but negotiations fell through. Eventually I was recommended to Thomas Yoseloff, and an agreement was signed with his Associated University Presses in 1979. When they went into production in the spring of 1982, quite a back-log of titles had accumulated. Within twelve months some nine titles had come out, which was our largest ever annual rate of production. The books were produced better than before, but were far higher priced, in line with all hardback books today. After publishing nine books, Associated University Presses gave notice to terminate their association with us, although they were prepared to continue publishing for us on terms more favourable to them. I decided once more, despite the upheaval involved, to change publishers. In August 1981 we came to an agreement with Oxford University Press for them to publish all future books. Oxford University Press now publish simultaneously in Oxford and New York, and have outlets all over the world. We hope that we have found our permanent publishing partners. We have so far published thirty-four titles and have eighteen more in the pipeline, some in the press, others still being written. The money laid out for this venture so far has been over ?200,000. What will happen after these volumes have been published? I hope, with the aid of my editors, to go on with this venture as long as I live. Whether it will continue beyond that, who can say? I hope to leave funds for it to be continued, but it will depend on the interest and knowledge of my sons. But whatever the future may have in store, I think it correct to say that it has already become the largest library or series of Judaica in the English language. I sometimes ask myself why this effort was not made before. To some extent, of course, it has been, but the Yale Judaica Series, the Jewish Publications Society of America, the East and West Library, and Schocken Paperbacks have neither been on this scale, nor have maintained the standard of authorship we have been fortunate to secure, or the standard of production. I can volunteer some possible reasons. Firstly, the need for such a series has probably arisen only during the last seventy years. Before then, English-speaking Jews were far less numerous, and a knowledge of Hebrew scholarship was probably more widespread than it is now. Secondly, the degree of assimilation was far less. Most Jews in English-speaking countries were still engaged in establishing themselves in new homes. Relatively few went to universities, and the hold which the Synagogue had over them was still strong. Thirdly, there was a greater difficulty in finding scholars to undertake original scholarship in Judaica. The change may be partly due to the greater number of universities, particularly in America and Israel,which now include departments of Jewish</page><page sequence="15">The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization Studies. So the need for such a series was not so strong, nor were the means to fulfil it available. Nevertheless, some trends in society pull the other way. The growing secularization of the West militates against religious culture. With it, a hedonistic outlook also militates against a serious view of human life. The organized Jewish community has seen an intensification of nationalist, rather than religious or cultural views. The sheer cost of book production today also results in the almost prohibitive cost of well-produced hardbacked books. Finally, a century which has witnessed such barbarism as ours has seen also a coarsening of mind, a slackening of the creative impulse, and a growing lack of interest in elevated spiritual and cultural values. The series would have been impossible without a Board of Editors of repute, scholarship and dedication. The editors have acted as if the series were their own creation, which in many respects it has been. They have given of their best, particularly Dr David Goldstein, who has acted as Editor-in-Chief from the time he was appointed, and Dr Vivian Lipman, who, following the retirement of Dr Lionel Kochan from the Board in 1980, has striven, with meticulous scholarship, to make the history side of the series as important as the rest of our publications. All are British, and all belonged, in differing degrees, to the Jewish religious tradition. Dr Goldstein, for years a Rabbi of the Liberal Synagogue, St John's Wood, is now Curator of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books in the British Library. Dr Louis Jacobs is the leading Anglo-Jewish theologian of our day and could be described as an independent traditionalist. Dr Lionel Kochan is Reader in Jewish Studies in Warwick University and belongs to a traditional synagogue, while Dr Vivian Lipman is devoutly Orthodox. He is a retired Civil Servant and was once in charge of our country's ancient monuments. As for me, I was trained and practised as a lawyer, but for many years have been a farmer, keeping many herds of dairy cattle in Dorset. My religious standpoint is somewhere between that of Dr Goldstein and that of Dr Louis Jacobs. All this indicates that this publishing venture has been initiated and forwarded by Englishmen practising the Jewish faith, and it may well come to represent the standpoint from which the Anglo-Jewish literary tradition will be remembered. L. T. S. Littman unfortunately passed away before he could check the final proofs of this paper, depriving the Society of a generous benefactor. 325</page></plain_text>