Getlekhe un nisht getlekhe mayses: The Mayse-bukh and Its Readership
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This article demonstrates how Yiddish books (in particular, collections of tales), in the era of the manuscript as well as the print age, were intended for all readers – men, women and children. They were intended for a reading public that enjoyed both »godly« and »ungodly« stories in equal measure, at the same time and even in the same book. This point is illustrated first with reference to two 16th-century manuscripts that include a spectrum of genres, from rewritings of Hebrew sources to German folktales, and then expanded through an analysis of the Mayse-bukh, which contains not only stories based on talmudic aggadot and narratives focused on German Pietists, but also a miscellany of adventure tales taken from a variety of European sources (with and without morals), resembling in structure the Italian Novellino. First printed in 1602, the Mayse-bukh was presented by its editor as appropriate and improving reading for everyone.