Another great resource added to the internet: The Jewish Encyclopedia.

This website contains the complete contents of the 12-volume Jewish Encyclopedia , which was originally published between 1901-1906. The Jewish Encyclopedia, which recently became part of the public domain, contains over 15,000 articles and illustrations.

This online version contains the unedited contents of the original encyclopedia. Since the original work was completed almost 100 years ago, it does not cover a significant portion of modern Jewish History (e.g., the creation of Israel, the Holocaust, etc.). However, it does contain an incredible amount of information that is remarkably relevant today.

Of linguistic interest is, for example, the immensely detailed article on the Hebrew alphabet. Obviously any remarks about the “earliest” this or that should be taken with a grain of salt in a century-old source, but it’s full of information, like the discussion of how the cursive script developed. (Via plep.)


  1. Jonathan says

    “…should be taken with a grain of salt…”
    A grain of kosher salt, of course.

  2. coincidentally, I ended up there yesterday on a word search. quite a lot of information at hand.
    I love the internet.

  3. dan barrett says

    This website almost makes up for all that spam I receive each day. Thanks for the link.

  4. For the record, all salt is kosher. “Kosher salt” means “salt suitable (on technical grounds, not religious ones) for producing kosher meat”.

  5. David Marjanović says

    Part of these technical reasons is that it’s very coarse-grained, which is no doubt one reason why a “grain of kosher salt” was specified 14 years ago.

  6. My feeling is that the preferred technical term is koshering salt, but I don’t know how wide spread (or old) that name is. I could ask my grandmother what her own grandfather (who was a kosher butcher) called it.

    I occasionally see recipes that call for kosher salt to be dissolved in water, which just means wasting the extra you paid for the larger grains. Sometimes, large grain salt is also labeled “sea salt,” which strikes me as even more absurd, since almost all salt you can buy is obtained from the evaporation of seawater. Old-fashioned mined salt is rare and far more expensive. In the days when mining was the only way to get salt, it was a luxury product; now it’s so cheap that we can afford to dump it on frozen roads.

  7. Can you lay your hands on these statistics? My understanding is that industrial salt and road salt is typically mined, since these uses do not need pure salt (there isn’t much point in mining salt if you have to dissolve and evaporate it too). I’m speaking here of conventional mining in the style of coal or hard-rock mining, rather than solution mining in which water is pumped down and brine pumped back up.

    From what I understand, mined salt used to be expensive because mining it was even more difficult and dangerous than other kinds of mining, due to the dehydrating effects of handling salt. Miners were often slaves or prisoners, hence the self-deprecating “Back to the salt mines!” Modern mining equipment makes it much easier and safer to cut out and remove blocks of salt.

    As for salt evaporation in ponds, it is at least 5000 years old in China.

  8. @John Cowan: No, you are correct. Despite my remark about salting roads, I was really only thinking of food-quality salt. Non-food-grade salt is indeed mostly mined (both dry and wet methods are used), because purity is not really an issue.

  9. David Marjanović says

    almost all salt you can buy is obtained from the evaporation of seawater. Old-fashioned mined salt is rare and far more expensive.

    Depends on where, of course. In Austria, salt comes out of the mountains by default, and sea salt – recent as opposed to Triassic sea salt – is still a bit of a novelty item that is prized for being not pure, but containing other minerals that influence the taste. Back in the Triassic, that lagoon evaporated so slowly that the minerals are neatly sorted from least (gypsum) to most soluble (potassium salts) from bottom to top.

    And in northern Germany, the weather isn’t right for getting salt out of the sea cheaply, but there’s a huge Permian salt deposit underground, so that’s where salt comes from by default.

    Of course salt is nowadays mined by solution.

  10. It’s odd that it seems so hard to find figures for the relative importance of different salt sources. Salt uses are easy to find: about 6% of world production is for food, 12% for water conditioning (in an ion exchange, unwanted potassium ion is replaced by sodium ion, thus making the water “softer”), 8% for road de-icing, and 6% in agriculture (it improves resistance to disease in certain crops, notably maize). The remaining 68% is used in industrial processes, most especially the synthesis of sodium hydroxide and of chlorine in the form of chloride ion.

    The USGS has stats for U.S. salt production and consumption: shaft mining 44%, solution mining 38%, solar salt 9%, and vacuum separation 9%. U.S. salt is used quite differently from worldwide salt: 44% de-icing, 38% industrial (mostly solution-mined, since brine is what is wanted), 6% agricultural and food, 1% water treatment, and the rest miscellaneous including exports.

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