Pictured above: Babylonian Talmud, copied in 1342 in France; Source: Wikimedia

Spotted over at Haaretz and JNS.org today are articles about the fruition of a project funded by the Italian government: “Project Talmud.” After nearly six years, a team of seventy translators and twenty researchers will present the Italian President Sergio Mattarella with the Rosh Hashanah tractate. The new edition will feature Italian and Hebrew on facing pages, translated from the original Aramaic.

The Talmud is no small task to translate. For instance, the Schottenstein Edition fills 73 volumes that collectively weigh over 300 pounds (140 kg).

The project is historic in many ways. First, it goes to right an injustice that began in 1553, when authorities in Rome burned all the Talmuds they could find during the brutal Counter-Reformation. This event marked a complete reversal of earlier Papal rulings, since Pope Leo X had granted permission for a complete edition of the Talmud to be printed in Italy, a project completed in Venice in the years 1520-1523.

Second, the project is being led by Clelia Piperno, a professor of law at the University of Rome. This will mark the first time a woman led a Talmud project.

Third, The Italian Institute of Computational Linguistics, Istituto di Linguistica Computazionale (ILC) created a collaborative web environment, Traduco, expressly to facilitate the translation of the work. Unlike traditional translation technologies, the system was designed for complex multi-role annotation. Which makes complete sense for the Talmud, as it was written in the form of the base text with extensive commentary. You can read more about this tool from a seminar presentation posted online in July 2015.

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