Jacobs, Joseph

Jacobs, Joseph
   Born in Australia of Jewish parents, Jacobs wrote chiefly on Jewish history and culture, but between 1889 and 1900 he was actively involved on the Council of the Folklore Society. At his suggestion, the Society renamed its journal Folk-Lore in 1890; he was its first Editor under the new title (1890-3), and remained on the editorial board till 1900. He studied narrative genres, especially those involving both oral and written transmission, such as *fables. As regards folklore theory, he held that when similar items are found in separate cultures they have spread from a single place and time of origin, by contact between social groups (diffusion-ism), rather than developing independently (polygenesis); also, that folklore items such as tales or proverbs are created by a single 'author', not by a whole community.
   Jacobs produced several collections of fairytales for young readers; they include English Fairy Tales (1890, revised 1898) and More English Fairy Tales (1894), which did much to spread awareness of our own oral tradition. Two, *'Jack and the Beanstalk' and 'Henny-Penny', are personal memories of tales told him in childhood; the rest are texts previously collected and published by others, some being modified for easier reading. But the lengthy notes accompanying these popularized tales are thoroughly scholarly.
   Other important works are his editions of The Fables of Aesop as First Printed by William Cax-ton (1889), of The Most Delectable History of Reynard the Fox (1895), and of Barlam and Josaphat (1896), and his substantial introduction to E. W. Lane's translation of The One Thousand and One Nights (1895).
   ■ Obituary: Folk-Lore 65 (1954), 126-7. Gary Alan Fine, Folklore 98 (1987), 183-93.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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