ArtScroll publishes books on a variety of Jewish subjects. The best known is probably an annotated Hebrew-English siddur ("prayerbook") (the best-selling The ArtScroll Siddur), its Torah translation and commentary, a series of translations and commentaries on books of the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), and an English translation and elucidation of the Babylonian Talmud. Other publications include works on Jewish Law, and novels and factual works based on Jewish life or history. Over 800 books have been published to date.
According to the ArtScroll Web site, their "classics", or cornerstone publications, are:
In 1993 Mesorah Publications published The Chumash: The Stone Edition, a Torah translation and commentary arranged for liturgical use. It became popularly known as The ArtScroll Chumash, and has since became the best-selling English-Hebrew Torah translation and commentary in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. To a lesser degree, it has some usage in the non-Orthodox Jewish community. Although they are not used as the official Torah commentaries by any non-Orthodox synagogues, many Reform and Conservative Jews have purchased copies.
The total cost of the project is estimated to have cost US$21 million, most of which was contributed by private donors and foundations. Some volumes have up to 2 million copies in distribution, while more recent volumes have only 90,000 copies currently printed. A completed set was dedicated on February 9, 2005, to the Library of Congress, and the siyum (celebration at the "completion") was held on March 15, 2005, the 13th yahrzeit of Jerome Schottenstein, at the New York Hilton.
The first volume, Tractate Makkos, was published in 1990, and dedicated by Mr. and Mrs. Marcos Katz. Jerome Schottenstein was introduced to the publication committee shortly thereafter. He began by donating funds for the project in memory of his parents Ephraim and Anna Schottenstein one volume at a time, and later decided to back the entire project. When Jerome died, his children and widow, Geraldine, rededicated the project to his memory in addition to those of his parents. The goal of the project was to, "open the doors of the Talmud and welcome its people inside."
The text generally consists of two side-by-side pages: one of the Aramaic/Hebrew Vilna Edition text, and the corresponding page consists of an English translation. The English translation has a bolded literal translation of the Talmud's text, but also includes un-bolded text clarifying the literal translation. (The original Talmud's text is often very unclear, referring to places, times, people, and laws that it does not explain. The un-bolded text explains these situations to name a few. The text of the Talmud also contains few prepositions, articles, etc. The un-bolded text also takes the liberty of inserting these parts of speech.) The result is an English text that reads in full sentences with full explanations, while allowing the reader to distinguish between direct translation and a more liberal approach to the translation. (This also results in one page of the Vilna Talmud requiring several pages of English translation.) Below the English translation appear extensive notes including diagrams from sources ancient to modern.
The clarifying English explanation and footnoted commentary in the Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud is based on the perspective of classical Jewish sources. The clarifying explanation is generally based on the viewpoint of Rashi, the medieval commentator who wrote the first comprehensive commentary on the Talmud. The Schottenstein Edition does not include contemporary academic or critical scholarship.
Mesorah and the Schottenstein family have also begun a Hebrew version of the commentary to the Babylonian Talmud of benefit to yeshiva students who use mainly Hebrew and to Israeli scholars, since in Israel Hebrew is the national language, and have begun both an English and Hebrew translation of the Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud) as well, the former being only the second such translation in existence.
In translations and commentaries, ArtScroll works with the traditional framework of Halakha (Jewish law) accepting midrashic accounts in a historical fashion, and at times literally, and generally disregards (and occasionally disagrees with) textual criticism.
The two major differences between the way Sefardi and Ashkenazi Hebrew dialects are transcribed are as follows:
As such you would have the following transliterations:
|Shabbos||Shabbat||Shabbos (ArtScroll makes an exception due to widespread usage)|
|Akeidas Yitzchok||Akedat Yitzhak||Akeidas Yitzchak|
It is important to note, however, that the ArtScroll library is explicitly sectarian, and is not meant to represent a secular historical view, but rather a traditional Orthodox view. ArtScroll does not make the statement that the positions its editors favor represent the only legitimate ways of ruling on a halakhic issue or rendering a text.
In much of the Haredi and Modern Orthodox community, Mesorah Publications is credited with spurring a movement that is allowing classical Judaism to be relevant to modern Jewry, and arguably saving Orthodox (and by religious and demographic extension, American) Jewry. Now, several Orthodox Jewish publishers publish with similar typefaces, outlooks, etc. Artscroll's influence extended to the non-Orthodox movements as well. A new siddur and commentary published by Conservative Judaism's Rabbinical Assembly, Or Hadash, was noticeably inspired by Artscroll.