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V08p017005 Meïr Halevi Letteris.jpg

Max (Meïr Halevi) Letteris (b. September 13, 1800, Zolkiev, Poland; d. Vienna, May 19, 1871) was an Austrian Jewish scholar and the foremost poet of the Galician Haskala.



Letteris was a member of a family of printers that originally came from Amsterdam. At the age of twelve he sent a Hebrew poem to Nachman Krochmal, who was then living at Zolkiev. Subsequently he made the acquaintance of Krochmal, who encouraged him in his study of German, French, and Latin literature. In 1826, he entered the University of Lemberg, where for four years he studied philosophy and Oriental languages. In 1831, he went to Berlin as Hebrew corrector in a printing establishment, and later in a similar capacity to Presburg, where he edited a large number of valuable manuscripts, and to Prague, where he received the degree of Ph. D. (1844). In 1848 he settled finally in Vienna.

Letteris' chief poetical work in German, Sagen aus dem Orient (Carlsruhe 1847), consisting of poetic renderings of Talmudic and other legends, secured for him, though for a short time, the post of librarian in the Oriental department of the Vienna Imperial Library. His reputation as the foremost poet of the Galician school is based on his volume of poems Tofes Kinnor we-'Ugab (Vienna, 1860), and especially on his Hebrew version of "Faust," entitled "Ben Abuya" (ib. 1865). He exerted a considerable influence on Hebrew poetry. One of his best poems is his Zionistic song Yonah Ḥomiyyah, became very popular. His numerous translations are of value, but his original poems are as a rule prolix. His Hebrew prose is correct, though heavy.


Besides the works already mentioned the following deserve special notice:

  • "Dibre Shir" (Zolkiev, 1822) and "Ayyelet ha-Shachar" (ib. 1824), including translations from Schiller and Homer, and poems by Letteris' father
  • "Ha-[?]efirah" (Zolkiev and Leipsic, 1823), a selection of poems and essays
  • "Palge Mayim" (Lemberg, 1827), poems
  • "Gedichte" (Vienna, 1829), German translations from the Hebrew
  • "Geza' Yishai" (Vienna, 1835), Hebrew translation of Racine's "Athalie"
  • "Shelom Ester" (Prague, 1843), Hebrew translation of Racine's "Esther"
  • Spinoza's Lehre und Leben" (Vienna, 1847)
  • "Neginot Yisrael," Hebrew rendering of Frankel's "Nach der Zerstreuung" (ib. 1856)
  • "Bilder aus dem Biblischen Morgenlande" (Leipsic, 1870).

He was the editor of Wiener Vierteljahrsschrift, with a Hebrew supplement, Abne Nezer (ib. 1853), and of Wiener Monatsblätter für Kunst und Litteratur(ib. 1853).


  • Julius Fürst, Orient, Lit. 1849, pp. 633 et seq.;
  • idem, Bibl. Jud. ii. 234;
  • Zikkaron ha-Sefer, Vienna, 1869 (autobiographical notes by Letteris);
  • Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1871, p. 692;
  • G. Bader, in Aḥiasaf, 1903;
  • Nahum Slouschz, La Renaissance de la Littérature Hébraïque, pp. 51-53, Paris, 1902.

External links

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.



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