Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Neubauer, Adolf
NEUBAUER, ADOLF (1832–1907), orientalist, was born at Kottesó, in the county of Trentsen, in the north of Hungary, on 7 March 1832. His father, Jacob Neubauer, a Jewish merchant, who was a good Talmudic scholar, belonged to a family which had received the right of residence in the same neighbourhood in 1610; his mother was Amalie Langfelder.
Designed by his father for the rabbinate, Neubauer received his first education from his cousin, Moses Neubauer, also a good Talmudist. About 1850 he became a teacher in the Jewish School at Kottesó. Soon afterwards he went to Prague, where he attended the lectures of the critical rabbinical scholar, S. J. L. Rapoport, learnt French, Italian, and Arabic, studied mathematics, and finally (15 Dec. 1853) matriculated in the university. Between 1854 and 1856 he studied oriental languages at the University of Munich. In 1857 he went to Paris, where he resided till 1868, except for visits to libraries to examine manuscripts, and a somewhat long sojourn in Jerusalem, where he held a post at the Austrian consulate. At Paris he was attracted by the rich MS. treasures of the imperial library, and made the acquaintance of Salomon Munk, who was engaged in the study of the Judæo-Arabic literature of the middle ages, of Joseph Derenbourg, of Ernest Renan, and other orientalists. The influence of his Paris surroundings led Neubauer to adopt as his life's work the study, description, and, where circumstances permitted, the publication, of mediæval Jewish manuscripts. Thus in 1861–2 he published in the 'Journal Asiatique' (vols. 18-20) numerous extracts and translations from a lexical work of David ben Abraham of Fez (10th century), the MS. of which he had discovered in a Karaite synagogue in Jerusalem; and in 1866, after a visit to St. Petersburg, he published a volume 'Aus der Petersburger Bibliothek,' consisting of excerpts from MSS. preserved there, relating to the history and literature of the Karaites. He did not altogether lay aside other studies, and in 1863 won the prize offered by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres for a critical exposition of the geography of Palestine, as set forth in the two Talmuds and other post-Biblical Jewish writings. His work 'La Géographie du Talmud: Mémoire couronné par l'Académie' appeared in 1868. Though not free from errors, it displayed a remarkable thoroughness and mastery of facts; and at once placed its author in the first rank of Rabbinical scholars.
Already in 1866 Neubauer had visited Oxford, for the purpose of examining the large collection of Hebrew MSS. in the Bodleian Library. The printed Hebrew books in the library had been catalogued shortly before (1852-60) by Moritz Steinschneider; and in 1868 the curators entrusted to Neubauer the task of cataloguing the Hebrew MSS. in the library. Oxford became henceforth Neubauer's home till 1901. The work of cataloguing and properly describing the MSS. was long and arduous. In the end the catalogue appeared in 1886 — a large quarto volume of 1168 columns, containing descriptions of 2602 MSS. (many consisting of from 20 to 50 distinct works), and accompanied by an atlas of forty facsimile plates, illustrating the Hebrew palæography of different countries and periods. In spite of his engrossing labours on the catalogue, Neubauer found time for much important literary work besides. In 1873 he was appointed sub-librarian of the Bodleian Library. His knowledge, not merely of Hebrew, but of foreign literature generally, was extensive; and while he was sub-librarian both the foreign and the Oriental departments of the library were maintained with great efficiency. The first to recognise, in 1890, the value for Jewish literature of the 'Genizah,' or depository attached to a synagogue, in which MSS. no longer in use were put away, he obtained for the library, in course of time, from the 'Genizah' at Old Cairo, as many as 2675 items, consisting frequently of several leaves, and including many of considerable interest and value. The catalogue of these fragments, with very detailed descriptions, was begun by Neubauer (vol. i. 1886); but it was completed and published by (Dr.) A. E. Cowley, his successor in the library, in 1906.
Neubauer also, during 1875, edited from a Bodleian and a Rouen MS. the Arabic text of the Hebrew dictionary (the 'Book of Hebrew Roots') of Abu-'l-Walid (11th century), a work of extreme importance in the history of Hebrew lexicography, which was known before only from excerpts and quotations. In 1876 he published, at the instance of Dr. Pusey, an interesting catena of more than fifty Jewish expositions of Isaiah liii., which was followed in 1877 by a volume of transla-tions, the joint work of himself and the present writer. In the same year (1877) there appeared, in vol. xxvii. of 'L'Histoire littéraire de la France,' a long section (pp. 431-753) entitled 'Les Rabbins Français du commencement du XIVe siècle,' which, though its literary form was due to Renan, was based throughout upon materials collected by Neubauer. A continuation of this work, called 'Les Ecrivains Juifs français du XIVe siècle' (vol. 31 of 'L'Histoire littéraire,' pp. 351-802) based similarly on materials supplied by Neubauer, appeared in 1893. These two volumes on the French rabbis, stored as they are with abundant and minute information, drawn from the most varied and recondite sources, including not only Hebrew and German journals, but unpublished MSS. in the libraries of Oxford, Paris, the south of France, Spain, Italy, and other countries, form perhaps the most remarkable monument of Neubauer's industry and learning. In 1884 he was appointed reader in Rabbinic Hebrew in the University of Oxford. In 1887 he published (in the series called 'Anecdota Oxoniensia') a volume (in Hebrew) of 'Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles and Chronological Notes,' which was followed in 1895 by a second volume bearing the same title. He also issued, in 1878, a previously unknown Aramaic text of the Book of Tobit, from a MS. acquired in Constantinople for the Bodleian Library; and in 1897 edited, with much valuable illustrative matter, the original Hebrew of ten chapters of Ecclesiasticus from some manuscript leaves, which had been discovered in a box of fragments from the Cairo Genizah. A constant contributor to learned periodicals both at home and abroad, he published in the 'Jewish Quarterly Review' (1888-9, vol. i.) four able articles entitled Where are the Ten Tribes ?' and valuable essays in the Oxford 'Studia Biblica' in 1885, 1890, and 1891.
Neubauer's unremitting labours told upon his health. About 1890 his eyesight began to fail him. In 1899 he resigned his librarianship, and in 1900 his readership. He resided in Oxford, in broken health, till 1901, when he went to live under the care of his nephew. Dr. Adolf Büchler, a distinguished Rabbinical scholar, at Vienna. When Büchler was appointed vice-president of Jews' College, London, in 1906, Neubauer returned with him to England, and died unmarried at his nephew's house on 6 April 1907.
Neubauer was created M.A. of Oxford by diploma in 1873, and he was elected an hon. fellow of Exeter College in 1890. He was an hon. Ph.D. of Heidelberg, an hon. member of the Real Academia de la Historia at Madrid, and a corresponding member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in Paris. A portrait, painted by L. Campbell Taylor in 1900, is in the Bodleian Library.
Neubauer was nowhere more at home than among the manuscripts of a library. He quickly discovered what manuscripts of value a library contained, and habitually excerpted passages of interest. As a Hebrew bibliographer, he was second only to Steinschneider (1816-1907). At Oxford he stimulated and encouraged the studies of younger scholars. By example and precept he taught the importance of independent research. He retained his racial shrewdness and his quaint humour almost to the last. Though he did not practise Jewish observances, he was strongly Jewish in sympathy. He wrote an excellent Hebrew style.
[Personal knowledge; Jewish Chronicle, 8 March 1901, 12 April 1907; Jewish World, 19 April 1907; Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, 3 and 10 Jan. 1908.]