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THE 

JEWISH QUAETERLY 
REVIEW 



JANUARY, 1896 



JOSEPH DERENBOURG. 

Two years ago it fell to my lot to write a short obituary of 
my friend Isidore Loeb (Jewish Quarterly Review, V, p. i). 
With a sense of grief that deepens as one after another is 
added to the list of lost friends, I have now to record the death 
of Joseph Derenbourg, which occurred suddenly on the 29th 
of July last at the age of eighty -four years, when he was 
CDi jnspi ;pr. The deceased was born at Mayence, and he 
had to seek the means of making a livelihood which would 
allow him to continue his studies in Rabbinical literature, 
as well as in other Semitic languages, like his senior 
Salomon Munk, since at that time Germany had closed 
the door of the Universities to Jews. After having ac- 
complished the course of Latin and Greek in the Gymnasium 
of his native place, he went to the Universities at Giessen 
and Bonn to begin the study of Semitic languages, and 
took Ms degree of Doctor of Philosophy under the famous 
Professor Freytag in 1834. Simultaneously, as was then 
the custom with the Jews, he followed the course of in- 
struction of the Jewish schools in the Talmud and its 
commentaries. J. Derenbourg then accepted a tutorship 
in a rich family at Amsterdam, but left this lucrative post 
for Paris, as Munk did, in 1839, wbere he continued his 
Oriental studies under Quatremere, Caussin de Perceval, 
and Reinaud. During his sojourn in Holland, he began his 

VOL. Vlir. o 



190 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

literary career by articles which appeared in Geiger's Zeit- 
schrifi. The most important is that on the writings of 
Isaac ibn Giyath (or Gayath), and extracts from the Uni- 
versity library at Leyden, of which Steinschneider after- 
wards compiled the Catalogue. It is probable that Deren- 
bourg wrote the following essays when still in Holland : 
(1) with the title Ueber das letzte Pasckahmahl Jesu 
(1841), a subject taken up lately by Prof. D. Chwolson 
in the Memoires of the St. Petersburg Academy, 1893; 
(a) Notes on Hebrew Grammar (1846), both of which 
appeared in the Orientalia, edited by Juynboll, signed 
Dernburg. At the same epoch the deceased began his 
Arabic publications, which we shall not enumerate, since 
Mahometan subjects have only a remote right to entry 
into a Jewish Quarterly. The new edition of Lokman's 
Fables, with a French translation and notes (Berlin, 1847), 
by the deceased, has an interest for Jewish readers, since 
Derenbourg identifies Lokman with the name of Balaam. 

Between 1848 and i860 the deceased was obliged to 
slacken his literary energy, having been forced to seek 
his daily bread. However, he wrote a notice on Maimo- 
nides' Guide, which Munk was editing, and went on with 
his Arabic labours, editing together with M. Reinaud the 
famous work of Hariri. About 1862 he took up his old 
studies in Hebrew literature, writing many valuable reviews 
in the Journal Asiatique ; he also published notices on 
Semitic epigraphy, and reverted to his old love, viz. Hebrew 
Grammar and Massoretic studies. His great knowledge of 
the last subject he showed by publishing critically with 
a commentary the famous Yemen Grammar, found in MS., 
as a kind of Massoretic guide, with the title of Manuel de 
Lecture, which appeared in the Journal Asiatique in 1867. 
M. Derenbourg then turned his attention to Jewish history. 
He published in 1867 his great work on Jewish history, 
which appeared under the title of Essai sur I'histoire et la 
Ge'ographie de la Palestine d'apres les Talmud et les autres 
sources rabbiniques, vol. i (history), now out of print. 



JOSEPH DERENBOURG 191 

He planned a second edition, enlarged by recent research, 
and with the addition of an index which readers missed in 
the first volume, but we know not how far his revision 
went, or whether it is found among his papers. The second 
volume (geography) did not appear at all, and as far as 
I know only the slips of it exist. For curiosity sake I may 
mention that after 1871 he entered into a political con- 
troversy with Geiger, the latter siding with Germany, while 
Derenbourg was heart and soul for France. This corre- 
spondence exists in print. We cannot enumerate all the 
minor articles which he wrote after 1870 in the Journal 
Asiatique, of which he was one of the committee of publica- 
tion, nor those in other periodicals, more especially the 
Revue des Mudes Juives, his contributions to which would 
make more than a big volume. Here he tried his hand on 
Biblical criticism, Hebrew palaeography, on the Mishnah, 
on grammar. The most important publication was the 
glosses of Judah ben Balam on Isaiah, according to a MS. 
at St. Petersburg. He was also member of the committee 
of the Revue, sometime President, and an assiduous con- 
tributor. It is curious to mention that Derenbourg did his 
most important work after his eyes began to fail, and he 
became, alas, completely blind. He published in this state 
the Himyaritie part of the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiti- 
carum, issued by the Acad^mie des Inscriptions et Belles 
Lettres, of which he was elected a member in 1871. The 
same was the case with the publication of Abul Walid's 
(Jonah ben Jannah) Opuscula (1880) and the Grammar 
(1886), both in Arabic ; the former with French translation 
and with collaboration of his son, M. Hartwig. Others of 
Derenbourg' s publications are the two Hebrew versions of 
Galila ve Dvnmah, which appeared in 1881 amongst the 
publications of the ficole des Hautes Etudes, where he 
taught Rabbinic. In this collection he published, also in 
1887, Johannis de Capua Directorium Vitae Humanae, 
which is the Latin translation of Calila ve Dimnah. 

The last great work of the deceased was the edition of 

O % 



192 THE JEWISH QUABTERLY REVIEW 

S e adyah Gaon's collected works as far as they exist, in 
honour of S e adyah's Millennium which fell in 1 89 2. Generous 
subscriptions came in after the appeal of the octogenarian 
Derenbourg. He himself published in Stade's Zeitschrift 
a revised translation of Isaiah by S e adyah. At present the 
edition of the Pentateuch by the deceased ; the translation 
and commentary on Proverbs aided by M. Lambert are 
published ; and, we understand, Isaiah as far as the com- 
mentary exists, are ready. Derenbourg chose the collabora- 
tors of this arduous work, but M. Lambert will be the pilot 
now that the master's hand is removed. Our consolation 
is in the words of the prophet btiTW \zbit i6 "D, and the 
collaborators are of vigorous age. 

Derenbourg was for a time member of the Consistoire 
de Paris ; an active member of the Alliance Israelite 
Universelle, and of the Socie'te's des Etudes Juives. He took 
part in preparing the Catalogue of the Hebrew MSS. in 
the National Libraiy, begun by Munk, and continued by 
him and Adolphe Franck. The deceased was for a long 
time reader of Semitic for the Imprimerie Rationale ; in 
this capacity he was very useful to authors, and especially 
to beginners. M. Derenbourg was kind hearted in every 
way, benevolent, and never despaired of the future, despite 
his terrible afflictipn. In that respect he was a Jew of the 
old type, having confidence in the future. He encouraged 
young students to work. Isidore Loeb, Lambert, and Israel 
Levi are in some respects his pupils, and those who survive 
will not easily forget him. To me he was a dear friend 
for nearly forty years, ftairin 

A. Neubaueb. 

P. S. I understand that the Committee which is directing 
the S e adyah publications has placed the continuation of 
the work in the hands of Prof. H. Derenbourg, son of the 
deceased. Unfortunately the funds at the disposal of the 
Committee are almost exhausted.