Preface / Ruth R. Wisse
Introduction / Goldie Sigal
The Collection
Historical Background
Joe Fishtein and his Milieu
The Yiddish Language
Soviet Orthography
The Flowering of Yiddish Literature
The Catalogue
The Indices
Archival Items in the Collection
Technical Aspects
Table of Name Equivalents

The Catalogue Entries
Search the Catalogue
Browse by Topic
Browse by Index
(Author, Title, Illustrator, Periodical, Series)


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Technical Aspects

Cataloguing Procedures

As in virtually all major research libraries in North America, cataloguing policy at McGill strives to reflect Library of Congress (LC) practice:- in its interpretation of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules for descriptive cataloguing, in its procedures for choosing "authoritative" name headings, and in subject analysis - the assignation of subject headings and classification numbers. The transcription of Yiddish into the Roman alphabet also follows LC romanization practice as much as possible.

The intended audience for the published Fishstein Catalogue is wider than that of the professional library world. The editor's aim, therefore, has been to present a volume that is as clear and readable as possible, with technical discipline present, but unobtrusive.

The Catalogue Entries

Each entry listed in this Catalogue has been derived from a full record on McGill's automated catalogue. To make the listing manageable, and for the sake of clarity and brevity, each record has been reduced to its essential elements. Names of contributors other than the author, which are generally listed at the bottom of the traditional catalogue card, have been omitted; access to them is provided by the Author and Illustrator Indices.

Similarly, LC "uniform titles" and subject headings have not been included. The few uniform titles present in the Fishstein Collection entries were considered dispensable in a published catalogue of this nature. Subject access is provided by the headings into which the main sections of this Catalogue have been divided, which are listed in the Table of Contents. These generally reflect the subject analysis inherent in the LC classification scheme, the order of which, with a few exceptions, is followed in the listing of the entries. Subject access to names has been provided in the Author and Illustrator Indices.


Yiddish is written in the Hebrew alphabet, as are Hebrew and Aramaic, and reads from right to left. Since the Roman alphabet is like one used by Library of Congress and most North American research libraries in their computerized cataloguing, a problem arises for libraries with large collections in non-Roman alphabets. Because of important practical considerations, virtually all major research libraries in North America partake in the shared cataloguing provided by the large North American bibliographic utilities, like OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) and RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network). Participating libraries with Hebraica collections are obliged to accept or create cataloguing records which have been romanized according to the LC scheme. This is also true for contributors to the RLIN database, which has incorporated certain provisions for original Hebrew alphabet transcription.

The romanization scheme generally implemented in this Catalogue is that of the Library of Congress. The American Library Association / Library of Congress (ALA/LC) Romanization Table follows. The scheme is basically compatible with that of the YIVO Institute of Jewish Research. (Cf. Weinreich, 1949, p.26, and 1968, p. xxi; Weinberg, 1995, p, 60.) The treatment of vowels matches YIVO's, but the table for consonants differs in some respects. For example, in LC, the gutteral consonant hes ("h")[dotted] is differentiated from khof ("kh"), and the zayin-shin is transcribed as "zsh" rather than "zh".

In the interest of visual clarity, without sacrificing phonetic accuracy, it was decided to retain one diacritic only in the published version of the Catalogue: the dot under the "h", depicting the guttural hes. The inclusion of this diacritic is essential in the LC scheme, as the guttural hes is represented by the same letter as for the aspirate hey, and must be differentiated from it.

There are many Hebraisms in standard Yiddish, Hebrew words or elements of words that have become embedded in its sister language. These retain their Hebrew spelling (except in Soviet orthography), but are pronounced differently than they are in Sephardi Hebrew. Library of Congress practice has varied through the years with regard to the transcription of Hebraisms. In its concern to approximate reversibility where possible, LC formerly romanized such words as they would be pronounced in Sephardi Hebrew, rather than in Yiddish. It now accepts the vocalization given by Uriel Weinreich's Modern English-Yiddish, Yiddish-English Dictionary (1968), which is that of the YIVO romanization scheme, with the substitution of its own romanized equivalents for consonants. (Maher, 1987, p. 22)

However, this approach is not extended by LC to Hebrew forenames in a Yiddish context. Its policy for the treatment of such a forename is that the name is romanized "according to its Hebrew form rather than attempting to approximate a Yiddish pronunciation" (Maher, 1987, p. 23) (e.g., Mosheh, not Moysheh). This directive was not followed in the Fishstein Catalogue - one of the few deviations from the LC practice to be found in it - as such a practice was considered to be jarring for the Yiddish reader    (4). For the systematic transcription of a Hebrew forename in standard Yiddish, the cataloguer of this Collection has attempted a compromise; she has tried to convey its Yiddish pronunciation, while suggesting its Hebrew derivation. For example, within the context of standard Yiddish, the Hebrew name, Mosheh, is generally rendered Moysheh; within a Soviet Yiddish orthography context it is transcribed as Moyshe.

Another minor modification of LC romanization practice has been made in this Catalogue. To minimize ambiguity, an inverted apostrophe has been inserted before the last "e" of certain romanized words, without which the word might be pronounced differently by an English reader. For example, the Yiddish word for "all" - al'e (alef, lamed, ayin) - without a division mark, might well be pronounced like the word for the alcoholic beverage.

There is no question that a romanized entry looks alien to the Yiddish reader, especially to the unpractised eye. However, despite the difficulties experienced in the use of a romanized catalogue, it may nevertheless provide some unexpected benefits. It is helpful to readers who are unfamiliar with the Hebrew alphabet, but can understand spoken Yiddish; or to East European Yiddish readers with a knowledge of the Roman alphabet, whose familiarity with Soviet Yiddish orthography makes standard Yiddish look foreign. In addition, the essence of a Yiddish phrase will often be grasped by those who understand spoken German, provided it contains few Hebraisms.

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Goldie Sigal
Jewish Studies Librarian
McGill University Libraries