Ignaz Bernstein (1836–1909) was a Russian-Jewish ethnologist, bibliophile, and philanthropist who dedicated his life to Jewish folklore. He is the well-known author of Juedische Sprichwoerter und Redensarten (1908,) a compilation of 3987 Yiddish proverbs and expressions.
Born in Vinnytsa, Podolia (in today’s Ukraine,) Bernstein relocated with his parents to Warsaw in 1856. He used part of his wealth from the family’s sugar business for his scholarly pursuits.
During a visit to Berlin in 1859, Bernstein stumbled upon a little German book of Jewish proverbs. This inspired his lifetime obsession with collecting Yiddish proverbs and assembling a paroemiological library.
Bernstein collected more than 6,000 books dealing with proverbs in over 100 languages. He donated his books and manuscripts to the Polish Academy of Sciences; today these materials are housed in the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków. As a prominent philanthropist, Bernstein gave generously to various Jewish and Polish causes.
• READ: Works by Ignaz Bernstein