Gender, Identity, and Memory in the Illustrated Yiddish Books of Renaissance Italy
Author: Diane Wolfthal
This is the first comprehensive study of the images in five profusely illustrated Yiddish books that were produced in sixteenth-century Italy: a manuscript of Jewish customs illustrated by its scribe, and two books of customs, a chivalric romance, and a book of fables, all printed at Christian presses in Venice and Verona. The long-neglected manuscript includes more than one hundred drawings, here reproduced for the first time, which are strikingly inventive and full of a joie de vivre that gives the lie to the lachrymose view of Jewish history. This volume, which explores how Yiddish imagery constructs women, Jewish memory, and Jewish identity, will interest art historians, feminist scholars, Jewish Studies specialists, and specialists in the history of the book.
Author: Diane Wolfthal


A Miscellany of five secular Yiddish chapbooks was created in late sixteenth-century East Swabia. Two of the chapbooks, “Keyser Oktavian” and a collection of “mayses”, were illustrated by their scribe Yitzhak bar Yuda Reutlingen. A Jewish owner also drew on a blank folio. This essay seeks to address two issues. First, although in the past these drawings have often been dismissed as derivative or crude, this article will dispute this assertion. Then this essay will question the ways in which some scholars have masked the manuscript’s Jewish identity, and will explore how the scribe and owner express the distinctly Jewish nature of the Miscellany through their drawings.

In: Women and Gender in the Early Modern Low Countries, 1500 - 1750