"A Hebrew Chronicle from Prague" by one or possibly two anonymous writers in the years prior to 1615, reflects the determination of the Bohemian Jewish community to record the story of their travail in exile. The volume is composed of short entries focusing on the Jewish communities in Bohemia from 1389 to 1611. The earlier entries have their basis in written documents, which are cited in some cases by the chronicler. Events occurring closer to the time of the writing were apparently recorded from verbal accounts of the elders in the Jewish community of Prague. The author was neither a scholar, nor a rabbi, for the Hebrew of the chronicle is crude and liberally sprinkled with expressions in the German vernacular. In his own words, the chronicler committed his materials to writing "to serve as a token of remembrance for us and our descendants forever". In 1978, research scholar Abraham David chanced upon the chronicle while examining the rare book collection of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. David realised the enormous importance of the work to scholars of Jewish historiography, Bohemian and Slavic history, and Jewish life in Eastern Europe.
The medieval Hebrew text of the chronicle was published in 1984 in a critical edition edited by David with a lengthy introduction and extensive historical notes written in modern Hebrew. This edition also included two hitherto unknown martyrologies. The first of these relates to Jewish life from the First Crusade until the expulsion of the Jews from Regensburg in 1519. The second recounts the sufferings of Jewish communities in Germany from the 1590s to the 1620s. The reception of David's book by scholars made it clear that the Prague chronicle is important new primary material, complementing, extending and opening new perspectives on the established historiography of the era. The volume is now available in English, including David's introduction and notes, through the careful work of Leon Weinberger and Dena Ordan. The translation was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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