The Telegraph (23 Consecutive Issues)
A very rare bound volume of 23 consecutive issues El Telegrapho ( איל טיליגראפו), a Ladino (Spanish Jewish) newspaper published in Istanbul from 1878 to 1931. These 23 consecutive issues were published from July 1894 to May 1895 and were edited by Isaac Gabbai.
El Telegrafo (The Telegraph) was a “political, commercial, and literary” newspaper in Judeo-Spanish published by the Gabbai family in Istanbul from 1878 to 1931 as a continuation of El Jurnal Israelit (1860–1873) and El Nasional (1873–1878). Its manager and editor-in-chief was Isaac Gabbai (d. 1931), son of Ezekiel Gabbai II (1825–1898), and great-grandson of Baghdadli Ezekiel Gabbai (d. 1826?). Initially, Marco Mayorcas was manager of the paper. By the mid-1890s, Joseph Gabbai, another of Ezekiel Gabbai’s sons, had assumed ownership of El Telegrafo.
When asked to conceptualize the traditional Spanish-speaking world, most people think of Spain and her former imperial territories, and historical studies of the Hispanic press are a reflection of that fact. Few Hispanic scholars think to include the Sephardic Jewish diaspora as part of the Hispanosphere, despite the fact that their abandonment of Spanish territory after 1492 did not mean that they abandoned their hispanidad. Rather, while the Edict of Expulsion prevented them from taking out ‘gold, silver, minted money, or other items prohibited by the laws of our kingdoms’ (Gerber 1994: 288), their precious culture, skills and day-to-day language, which after the expulsion came to be known mostly commonly as Judeo-Spanish or Ladino, travelled with them to their new destination.
Early migrations (15th/16th centuries) were mostly to the Ottoman Empire which, unlike Europe, allowed Jews to practice their religion freely. Ladino survived into modernity, preserving many forms now archaic in Iberian speech and with idiosyncratic features due to other linguistic influences. The Ladino of the Ottoman Empire, or Ladino Oriental as it is also known (Ladino Occidental, or Haketía/Hakitía, is the now-extinct variant of Moroccan Jewry) took elements depending on time and place from languages including, but not limited to, Hebrew, Turkish, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Greek, Italian and French.
There are many reasons that the Sephardic cultural contribution remains obscure to Hispanic Studies researchers. One of the biggest reasons for the exclusion of the Sephardim from the Spanish-speaking imaginary is because of the great scarcity of Ottoman Jewish material literary artifacts, with no more than a thousand texts remaining, including newspapers (Borovaya 2012: 4). This is very little when one considers that, at the turn of the 20th century, there were approximately 250,000 Jews in the Ottoman Empire (Benbassa & Rodrigue 2000: 70), and that between 1845 and 1939, approximately three hundred Sephardi periodicals appeared in the Ottoman Empire and its former territories.
Finally, as leading researcher in the field Olga Borovaya attests, of what is left of these scant sources, most Ladino newspapers, plays and novels are available only on microfilm, meaning that field research in Israel and elsewhere is required to study the sources. If that were not enough to dissuade the interested scholar, many of these sources are incompletely bound, their typographic quality is very poor, and many periodicals have lacunae where articles have been cut out by readers.