ABSTRACT: This article presents, first, an overview of medieval Hebrew prefatory poems to prose texts, tracing changes in the genre and considering how these poems functioned with respect to the text and to manuscript production and use. In early prefatory verse from Golden Age al-Andalus, poets often imported individual formal elements of the Arabic prose preface. With the shifting of Jewish cultural production to Christian Europe in the twelfth century, Hebrew prefatory verse tends to shed these elements. Instead, the type of prefatory verse that flourishes in the later period usually addresses the reader directly; names the book and its author; praises the work; and alludes to its formative aims. Within this framework, the article focuses on poetry that appears in manuscripts of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed. This includes Maimonides’ own poems for the Guide, poems written by two thirteenth-century commentators on the Guide, Shem Tov Ibn Falaquera (c. 1225–1295) and Zera@hyah ben Isaac ben Shealtiel @Hen (d. after 1291), and brief, anonymous verses copied by later readers or owners into their manuscript copies of the Guide.
Jewish Quarterly Review – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Sep 9, 2016
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