In the summer of 2004, a publisher of Jewish prayer books asked me to recommend a basic list of reference books for their office library. Off the top of my head, I named some of the titles that I thought were essential for their kind of work. Since then, I've given the topic quite a bit more thought and have come up with this little bibliography. It's still a work in progress and I'd appreciate any suggestions that would improve it.
Recommendations that I'm less sure of are given in square brackets.
Siddurim from the four movements
Gates of Prayer (Reform)
Siddur Sim Shalom (Conservative)
Kol Haneshamah (Reconstuctionist. Various editions; you might start with "Shabbat vehagim.")
Birnbaum Daily Prayer Book: Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem (Orthodox)
[Marcia Falk's Book of Blessings (feminist siddur)]
[Or Chadash: A Guide to Shabbat Celebration (the original P'nai Or siddur) or one of the other Jewish Renewal siddurim.]
Gates of Understanding, vols. I and II (Reform. Essential commentary on Gates of Prayer and Gates of Repentance.)
[Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom (Conservative)]
The Authorized Daily Prayer Book, Joseph H. Hertz (Traditional. Annotated siddur shaleim.)
The Complete Artscroll Siddur (Annotated siddurim with a vast apparatus of helpful information. Orthodox. Many editions to choose from. Outstanding typography.)
My People's Prayer Book, Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman (Not a siddur, but an exhaustive treatment of its contents. Reform. 7 vols, Jewish Lights Publ.)
The Jerusalem Bible -- Tanakh Koren with English Translation (Not the Catholic translation, also named Jerusalem Bible.)
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Hebrew only)
The Tanakh from the Jewish Publication Society (Now available in a Hebrew-English edition. Also available on CD-ROM.)
[The above editions are highly regarded, but all derive more or less from the Leningrad Codex. Some authorities claim the Aleppo Codex is more "accurate" so it might be nice to have an Aleppo scion in your library. Rabbi Mordechai Breuer's famous work on the Aleppo Codex has been published in various editions over the years. In 2000, his work was incorporated in the magnificent Keter Yerushalayim, the Jerusalem Crown, published by Karger of Basel, Switzerland. The Karger edition sells for $255 but I've seen a Ben Tzvi edition for about $40, and the earlier editions published by Mossad Harav Kook are available for even less.]
For convenience, it might be nice to have a one-volume Hebrew-English T'hillim. One might choose the venerable Soncino Psalms, edited by the Rev. Dr. A. Cohen, or the newer one-volume Artscroll Tehillim edited by Rabbis Hillel Danziger and Nosson Scherman.
Mishnah, Herbert Danby (English)
Soncino Talmud (English and Hebrew) on CD ROM (The Hebrew text of the Talmud is included with Davkawriter.)
Berachos from the Artscroll Mishnah series or Tractate Berachoth from the Blackmun Mishnayot.
[Dr. Zvi Ehrman's Tractate Berakhot from the El-Am Talmud series, while hard to find, sounds excellent.]
Marcus Jastrow for Aramaic (Targum, Talmud, etc. Hebrew-English)
According to a bibliography at Yale, you'll also want an Alcalay (Hebrew-English) to help distinguish the schwa na from the schwa nach.
[Avraham Even-Shoshan's 5-volume edition is considered authoritative by librarians (Hebrew-Hebrew).]
[Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon -- old but still highly regarded]
Artscroll transliterated siddur (Ashkenazi, many editions)
[There are also several guides to the correct pronunciation of Hebrew, specifically in davening and Torah reading (e.g., Eim le'Mikra haShaleim by Rabbi Nissan Sharoni).]
Jewish Liturgy & Its Development, A.Z. Idelsohn
Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History, Ismar Elbogen
[I can't imagine anything that Idelsohn and Elbogen would have overlooked, but if they did, it's probably covered in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer by Macy Nulman.]
I've decided to focus on the books that would be of particular interest to a siddur publisher. Thus I've left out the dictionaries, production references, and Pantone books, as well as the style, usage and grammar works that should be in any publishing office -- though I've made an exception for the Chicago Manual, the ne plus ultra of the wise publisher's bookshelf.
Likewise, I've chosen to leave out basic works on Judaism (there are fine reading lists all over the Web), guides for baalei t'filah, how-to books for congregants, and works on the history of the siddur. A fascinating suggested reading list is maintained on the Web by Dr. Joel M. Hoffman.
If one doesn't have a strong background in the literature of the siddur, Abraham Millgram's Jewish Worship and Barry Holtz's Back to the Sources will help you get up to speed.
For a vast array of Jewish texts in Hebrew, there's the Judaic Classics Deluxe Edition on CD ROM. Available from Davka for only $79. [Also see the Judaic Bookshelf -- Master Library from TES, and the Torah CD-Library from DBS.]
Wikipedia has a useful list of texts available in electronic form (search for "Torah database"). Such online resources can be wonderful for study purposes but the careful publisher will keep in mind the uncertain provenance and risks of copyright infringement that can come with using online resources.
I would have liked to list a good showing of Hebrew typefaces but I simply don't know of one.
Finally, every publisher should have a house style sheet and every manuscript a book style sheet. For an example of a house style sheet, see the one used by the Jewish Quarterly Review. As for book style sheets, see the Chicago Manual (15th edition) 2.54, SBL Handbook 2.1, or Judith Butcher's Copy-editing, p. 21.
Thanks to Dr. Ernest Rubinstein, Rabbi Royi Shaffin, Debbie Smilow, Warren Wolfsohn, and Larry Yudelson. The Book of Jewish Books by Ruth S. Frank and William Wollheim, and the online archives of Mail.Jewish and the Avodah Mailing List were also valuable resources.
You are invited to share your thoughts about this bibliography. Please email Barry Nostradamus Sher.
Copyright (c) 2004 Nostradamus Advertising. Last updated 05/05/2008