Yiddish Pentateuch


A 16th-century Yiddish translation of the Torah.

What is Yiddish?

Yiddish is an old language that was spoken by Jewish communities in Central Europe from around the 9th century CE. It is a mixture of German vernacular combined with Hebrew and Aramaic words. Yiddish continues to be spoken nowadays by Hasidic and strictly Orthodox Jews. It is estimated that close to one million people, mainly in Europe, USA and Israel, speak Yiddish.

Yiddish writing uses the Hebrew alphabet. Both literal translations and paraphrases can be found among the earliest Yiddish translations of the scriptures. These have played a significant role in the development of the Yiddish language and its literature. The item discussed here is the only Yiddish manuscript translation of the Torah in the British Library collection. Another biblical manuscript in the Library’s collection is Or 9911, which contains a 19th century Yiddish paraphrase of Genesis and part of Exodus.

The manuscript

This paper codex contains the translation into Yiddish of the Torah, or Five Books of Moses. The text was copied in a large 16th-century Ashkenazic script. A few missing leaves in the manuscript (ff. 1–2) were replaced in the 17th century by another scribe. The identities of the scribes and the translator are unknown.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
Pentateuch in Yiddish translation
1500–1599, Germany
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 18694

Full catalogue details

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