Today I discovered that it has almost all of the Hebrew preface translated into
French (pp xvii-xviii in your edition). From what I can make out, they are
saying that Jacob the son of Atiyah (they call him Ya'aqov benn Attia) was
likely Jacob "the scribe" who they describe as a remarkable person involved
in official relations between Morocco and Portugal during the 16th century.
They think it was dangerous for the preface to even allude to him. Their
hypothesis, which they admit is unprovable - by the nature of clandestine
activities being by their very nature designed to not leave a trace of
evidence - is the Jacob smuggled the work by accident to Morocco. As I
think I have mentioned to you before they think the work was a fiction
composed by a humanistic Jew. Their main argument in terms of evidence
apart from their scholarly titles seems to be the question as to why no
evidence exists to the work between 70 AD and 1625. Leaving to the side my
interest in examining the Greek fragments on Joseph from pre- 400 CE Egypt,
I ask the question as to whether the lack of reference to texts discovered
at Qumran in the 1950's which are seemingly not referred to for the past
2000 years proves that they are fictions prepared by the Bedouins who
proported to have found them. To their credit, Jacqueline-Lise
Genot-Bismuth informs that a 3rd and 4th Tome are already in preparation
giving the reader more information but I checked the Sorbonne library
catalogues online today and could find no evidence of any of this. I
discovered that she was still alive and giving a lecture in Paris a couple
months back but I am assuming she must be retired. I would dearly like to
gain access to this information but fear my French may not be sufficient for
the task. In the meantime I have written to my Rabbi friend who pronounced
that the Hebrew was pre-Babylonian at least for Chapter 8 and a retired
French classics philosophy prof for help on evaluating how to approach
Jacqueline Lise. A clergy colleague that I was ordained with did a
doctorate at Princeton on Hebrew Bible and he was very cautious about my
enthusiasm regarding SY when I met with him a few months back. he made
reference to this theory that it was a medieval-rennaisance fiction.

I can see from the 18th century forgery that the idea that the Hebrew one
was also contrived as a theological batiment formidable might well suit
those not wanting to come to terms with the theological and other
implications that SY is the real work referred to in Joshua and Samuel - but
I cannot help thinking that SY has too much integrity to simply be a
fictitious construct.

As for their argument that nothing came out of Spain for 1500+ years, I
would say that the history of Spain during that period during that time
shows a tremendous amount of upheaval. Official scholarship says that
Toledo is the only centre in Spain that shows any evidence of what prior to
1492 was a phenomenal Jewish presence throughout Spain. There was a
tremendous history of persecution and adapting to foreign domination, not
exactly the conditions for wanting to widely share SY. According to a
skimming of parts of JLGB's intro I have not read yet, I get they idea that
the publication of SY in 1625 created a lot of problems - I think anyone
could have predicted that all through those 1500 years (most of which were
times when printing presses were not available and copying books was
extremely expensive. It would be a bit like Blacks in the US before the
civil war composing a detailed and accurate history of their life and
culture in Africa - it would have been a pretty daunting task to safeguard
such a text even if one could possess it, let alone create one from scratch.
If a text was produced it was more likely to be more related to contemporary
challenges and realities like Uncle Tom's Cabin. This is just my idea on
this - tell me if I am way off the mark... This is my assessment of where
the author of the Hebrew preface is coming from. I find it interesting that
in the French translation, they drop the I am a worm self-deprecating intro
part at the beginning, I think because it did not suit the case they were
trying to make. To me it reflects the reality of how people feel when they
are coming out of bondage and oppression.

Another interesting point they raise though in a foot note is that the two
words that Noah left in Hebrew, which they transliterate as Ketonet Yosef
are reminiscent of the coat that Jacob offered to Joseph in Genesis 37:3.
They say they represent a play on words of Jewish editor, Yosef Haqatan's
proper name - done in the manner of titles of traditional works. They say
there is nothing surviving of his own work that he describes.

PS - as far as Contra Apion is concerned, I think it is important to bear in
mind that probably the whole text is corrupted as Thackeray noted in his
LOEB translation. Some of it (that portion of Book 2) only survives in
Latin. My take on a lot of texts from that period (including the New
Testament) is that the original copies were often likely papyrus and
heavilly abbreviated to save space, money and time. Later copiests had to
use their best judgement as to what the original text meant. I think
copiests had their good and bad days and some texts were a lot more
challenging than others...