LEVIN AVROM (ARYE-LEYB) LION D’OR (1793-after 1846)
He was born in Vilna, the son of Avrom Khayim. He received a Jewish religious education. Until age fifteen he knew only Yiddish. When Vilna University opened an elementary school in 1808 especially for Jews, he studied there for a few months, and when the school closed down, he continued his studies, in particular languages. He later became a teacher of Hebrew, Polish, German, and French. He also turned his attention to translating various documents for the Vilna lower court authorities. He was one of the first followers of the Jewish Enlightenment in Vilna and added the resonating French name “Lion d’or” (Golden lion) to his own [Arye and Leyb also both mean “lion”]. He published a Yiddish textbook, Nayer kinstlerikher briefshteller (New artistic letter-writing manual), which according to Ben-Yankev, was “a collection of letters in the language of Ashkenaz and with cursive script, and at the end a bit of arithmetic, Vilna, 1825/1826.” It was later published in fourteen printings (1843, 1944, and one of the last ones in 1868, then entitled Mikhtovim oder eyn nayer briefenshteller [Letters of a new letter-writing manual] [Vilna: Romm], 144 pp.) He was also the author of the first Polish-Yiddish dictionary: Slownik polski w języku żydowsko-niemieckim (Polish dictionary of the Judeo-German language); in Yiddish: Poylishe verter bukh in yidish taytshe shprakh (Vilna, 1827), 94 pp. + 8 pp., with a Hebrew preface in which the author apologizes, for people might consider sinful that this useful work would quench the thirst of eager Jewish children and translate such a work into Yiddish. “This dictionary itself,” wrote Zalmen Reyzen, “was compiled with great insight; the translation is often directed at ordinary people; the orthography—more or less consistent and simple, such that this work possesses not only bibliographic and cultural-historical interest, but a certain value for Yiddish philology.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol.2, with a bibliography; Sh. Bastomski, Di naye shul (The new school) (Warsaw, 1923); P. Kon, in Filologishe shriftn (Vilna: YIVO) 1 (1926); M. V. (Max Weinreich), in Yivo-bleter (New York) 18 (1941), pp. 109-12; Y. Elzet, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (June 19, 1941); Y. Rivkin, Der kamf kegn azartshpiln bay yidn (The fight against gambling among Jews) (New York, 1946), p. 114; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Fun kheyder un shkoles biz tsisho (From religious and secular primary schools to Tsisho) (Mexico City, 1956), pp. 80-85.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 328.]