June 03, 2003
Biblio-Bibliographic Question

Here's another question for the linguistically knowledgeable:

In editions of the Hebrew Bible with English-language translation and commentary, why do the columns go left to right while the pages go right to left? (I'm thinking of the Soncino and JPS series.) It makes sense that the pages go right to left, since the language does, too: the Hebrew words are naturally the most important part of the book, even if they are far outnumbered by the English words in the facing translation and commentary. But it's really awkward to read the notes in order: first you read the left column of the right page, then the right column of the right page, then you jump way over to the left column of the left page, finishing with the right column of the left page, before turning over to the next page, which is of course to the left. Wouldn't it be easier if the columns were arranged so they could be read from right to left, like the pages?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 03, 2003 12:08 AM

Explanation 1:

There has always been a tug of war in both Soncino and JPS on whether they are primarily Hebrew texts with English commentary, or English scholarly works of Hebrew texts. Believe it or not, depending on how you use it, your eyes will scan in different patterns.
The Soncino is widely used in synagogues for following the weekly Torah readings, and the weird placement of the English text is something that you get used to.

Explanation 2:

It's part of Jewish/Zionist/Masonic/Illuminati conspiracy to fuck with your mind.

Posted by: marduk on June 3, 2003 02:29 PM

Marduk, you are NOT supposed to tell him.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish on June 4, 2003 06:29 PM