"Besorat Measfim Hadashim": An Unknown Prospectus for the Renewal of "Hame'asef", the First Hebrew Periodical, in 1808/9: An Innovative Perspective of Jewish History

בשורת מאספים חדשים — מינשר בלתי ידוע לחידוש הוצאת 'המאסף', כתב-העת העברי הראשון, בתקס'ט: ראייה חדשה של ההיסטוריה היהודית.


As part of my study on the Hame'asef index, entitled Sha'ar Lahaskalah: An Annotated Index to Hame'asef, the First Hebrew Journal, published by The Hebrew University Magnes Press in 2000, I found an 1809 prospectus for the revival of Hame'asef, which is unknown and unrecorded in the bibliographical and critical literature. It was located in the State Library in Berlin, the only one out of 25 research libraries that were searched for copies of Hame'asef which has this pamphlet. In this prospectus, the new editor, Shalom Hacohen, a writer and a poet on his own right, proposed reviving the then defunct journal of Hebrew Haskalah in Germany, Hame'asef, initially launched in 1783. The journal closed in 1797 with dwindling circulation and readership, affected by various public controversies and the changing cultural climate of German Jewry. In 1808 Shalom Hacohen circulated a public announcement titled 'Besorat Me'asfim Hadashim,' about his efforts to renew the publication of the journal. In 16 pages, written in Hebrew and German (in Hebrew characters), the future editor delineates, among other things, his theories of cycles in history and of the relations between the state of a nation and its language (initially based on Hakuzari). He concludes that the Hebrew language and the Jewish people exhibit a miraculous existence which must be viewed outside the course of human history. I examine similar theories found in Giambattista Vico's (1668-1744) Scienza Nuova, and earlier in Machiavelli and then in some 18th-century German writers such as Lessing and Herder. The pamphlet is also discussed against the backdrop of Hacohen's first attempt to revive Hame'asef some ten years earlier, in 1799, when he tried to enlist the aid of Isaac Euchel, the first editor of Hame'asef, and Euchel's letter of refusal. The cultural milieu in German Jewry is discussed, as well as Hacohen's editorial policies and plans, and related topics.

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Dappim: Research in Literature /דפים למחקר בספרות

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