The Beginnings of Ladino Literature

The Beginnings of Ladino Literature

Moses Almosnino and His Readers
Olga Borovaya
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/13/2017
Format: Hardback 11 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02552-4
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Moses Almosnino (1518-1580), arguably the most famous Ottoman Sephardi writer and the only one who was known in Europe to both Jews and Christians, became renowned for his vernacular books that were admired by Ladino readers across many generations. While Almosnino's works were written in a style similar to contemporaneous Castilian, Olga Borovaya makes a strong argument for including them in the corpus of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) literature. Borovaya suggests that the history of Ladino literature begins at least 200 years earlier than previously believed and that Ladino, like most other languages, had more than one functional style. With careful historical work, Borovaya establishes a new framework for thinking about Ladino language and literature and the early history of European print culture.

Author Bio

Olga Borovaya is Visiting Scholar in the Mediterranean Studies Forum at Stanford University. She is author of Modern Ladino Culture: Press, Belles Lettres, and Theater in the Late Ottoman Empire (IUP).


“Like the best scholarship, Olga Borovaya's book is quietly revolutionary and serves to open up many new conversations in various fields.”
 — Vincent Barletta, author of Covert Gestures: Crypto-Islamic Literature as Cultural Practice in Early Modern Spain

“Olga Borovaya uncovers previously unacknowledged or misunderstood aspects of the literary, philosophical, and historical underpinnings of early Ladino literature. An impressive and erudite work.”
 — Julia Phillips Cohen, author of Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era

“With detailed notes, bibliography, and an index, this work is a critical addition to the growing body of research on the importance of Ladino literature today.”
 — Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

“[Olga Borovaya's] labor of many years resulted in a superb and insightful book, which approaches the classics of Sephardi literature from a perspective different from the one adopted until now, and thus teaches us to explore new paths. It should be read and savored slowly, because one is sure to encounter there an intriguing fact that will open a gold mine where one will discover new approaches to the study of sixteenth-century Sephardi literature, a virgin field never before plowed in depth. We need many works like this one by Olga Borovaya. ”
 — Pilar Romeu, Sefarad

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Table of Contents

Note on Translations, Transcriptions, Titles, and Proper Names
Prologue. Jewish Vernacular Culture in Fifteenth-Century Iberia
1. Ladino in the Sixteenth Century: The Emergence of a New Vernacular Literature
2. Almosnino’s Epistles: A New Genre for a New Audience
3. Almosnino’s Chronicles: The Ottoman Empire Through the Eyes of Court Jews
4. The First Ladino Travelogue: Almosnino’s Treatise on the Extremes of Constantinople
5. Rabbis and Merchants: New Readers, New Educational Projects
Epilogue. Moses Almosnino, a Renaissance Man?
Appendix. The Extremes of Constantinople

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