From around 850 to 1300 (the “classical” period), the Jews living in the Muslim world produced a substantial, richly diverse corpus of literature in Judeo-Arabic (Arabic texts composed by Jewish authors, usually written in Hebrew characters). This literature covered a broad range of topics and was written in a variety of genres, including commentaries on Bible and rabbinic literature; Biblical philology and lexicography; legal monographs, codes, and responsa; philosophical and theological works; Sufi pietistic manuals; polemical works and heresiography; even belle-lettres; only poetry was written primarily in Hebrew. There survives, also, a large collection of occasional letters and other documents from the Cairo Genizah.
This corpus of Judeo-Arabic literature and documents has been the subject of scholarly research ever since the nineteenth century. Some of the classic texts were published then, including some in Arabic characters with European language translations. The discovery of the Genizah gave new life to the study of the Jews in the Muslim world, especially in social and economic history (culminating in Goitein’s five-volume A Mediterranean Society) and in linguistics (with the foundational work of Joshua Blau). The Society for Judaeo-Arabic Studies, Makhon Ben Zvi in Jerusalem, and the Friedberg Genizah Project, among others, have contributed to the growth of the field. The opening of the Firkovitch collections in St. Petersburg some twenty years ago reinvigorated the field once again with renewed interest in Karaite texts. Indeed, thousands of manuscripts are now available to scholars from these collections—though many are still unidentified or properly catalogued—creating new entrées into the medieval Judeo-Arabic intellectual world.
The goal of the Library of Judeo-Arabic Literature is to create a substantial and representative library of these texts from all areas and genres. The aim is to publish (1) previously unpublished texts; (2) texts which have already appeared in the original but never in English translation; and (3) classic works which are in need of new editions and/or translations. The texts will be published with facing English translation, introduction, full annotation, and glossary. In cases where there has never been a scholarly edition of the Judeo-Arabic text, one will be created and paired with the English translation. A transcription into Arabic characters will also be provided in order to assure the widest possible scholarly access to the text. Where the Judeo-Arabic version has already been adequately published, priority will be given to pairing an Arabic letters transcription with the English translation. Each title will appear under the Brigham Young University Press imprint and will be distributed worldwide by the University of Chicago Press.
It is anticipated that the first volume will appear in the fall of 2015.
Preliminary List of Titles in Development
Moses Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed (ed. James Robinson, trans. Shlomo Pines)
Dawud al-Muqammas, Twenty Chapters (ed. and trans. Sarah Stroumsa)
Saadia Gaon, Commentary on the Book of Creation
Yefet b. ‘Eli, Commentary on the Book of Ruth
Anthology of polemical texts
Anonymous “Meanings of the Soul”