The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy

The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy

Joseph R. Hacker
Adam Shear
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 336
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    The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy
    Book Description:

    The rise of printing had major effects on culture and society in the early modern period, and the presence of this new technology-and the relatively rapid embrace of it among early modern Jews-certainly had an effect on many aspects of Jewish culture. One major change that print seems to have brought to the Jewish communities of Christian Europe, particularly in Italy, was greater interaction between Jews and Christians in the production and dissemination of books. Starting in the early sixteenth century, the locus of production for Jewish books in many places in Italy was in Christian-owned print shops, with Jews and Christians collaborating on the editorial and technical processes of book production. As this Jewish-Christian collaboration often took place under conditions of control by Christians (for example, the involvement of Christian typesetters and printers, expurgation and censorship of Hebrew texts, and state control of Hebrew printing), its study opens up an important set of questions about the role that Christians played in shaping Jewish culture. Presenting new research by an international group of scholars, this book represents a step toward a fuller understanding of Jewish book history. Individual essays focus on a range of issues related to the production and dissemination of Hebrew books as well as their audiences. Topics include the activities of scribes and printers, the creation of new types of literature and the transformation of canonical works in the era of print, the external and internal censorship of Hebrew books, and the reading interests of Jews. An introduction summarizes the state of scholarship in the field and offers an overview of the transition from manuscript to print in this period.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0509-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION: Book History and the Hebrew Book in Italy
    (pp. 1-16)
    Adam Shear and Joseph R. Hacker

    At the end of the sixteenth century, looking back not only at Jewish history but also at the “history of the world,” the Prague Jewish chronicler and scientist David Gans viewed the invention of printing in moveable type as the greatest of God’s gifts. Because printing could rapidly spread knowledge of all sciences, arts, and crafts, it surpassed all these in utility. Print was thus a kind of meta-art that made possible greater wisdom in all other fields. Gans’s praise may be hyperbolic, but his testimony echoes other praises of the new technology by Jews and non-Jews throughout the early...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Can Colophons Be Trusted? Insights from Decorated Hebrew Manuscripts Produced for Women in Renaissance Italy
    (pp. 17-25)
    Evelyn M. Cohen

    The scribe Moses ben Ḥayyim Akris completed a Hebrew prayer book, which he referred to as a siddur and a maḥzor, on 26 Adar I [5]280 ( = 15 February 1520), by which time apparently some, though clearly not most, of the work had been illuminated.¹ The codex subsequently was inherited by Jacob Norsa, who commissioned additional decoration. The ornamentation of the borders and the text illustrations reveal the hands of various artists working in different styles. The inclusion of the date “1569” within the adornment of folio 253r establishes that the manuscript’s embellishment continued in that year. The prayer...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Marchion in Hebrew Manuscripts: State Censorship in Florence, 1472
    (pp. 26-55)
    Nurit Pasternak

    The signature of Marchion in small Latin humanistic characters appears in seventeen Hebrew manuscripts, all of which are related in one way or another to Florence.¹ This peculiar signature is in fact a censor mark interspersed within the folios of each of the seventeen manuscripts: as a rule it appears on the side margins of the written text, adjacent to deleted words, lines, or passages that were regarded as blasphemous and disparaging to the Christian faith.² In several cases it was placed in close proximity to an expression that called for apologetic explication, and that ultimately was left untouched.³ Followed...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Daniel van Bombergen, a Bookman of Two Worlds
    (pp. 56-75)
    Bruce Nielsen

    We would like to dispel part of the commonly held but unsubstantiated romantic notion, common at least in Jewish studies, that views Daniel van Bombergen as a benevolent, good-hearted Christian¹ willing to squander his family’s inheritance in order to print “our” books.² We know he was a Christian and suspect he was benevolent and good hearted as well, but rather than squander he enhanced his family’s inheritance. He is known in Jewish studies nearly exclusively as the person responsible for printing the first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud, the first three editions of the Rabbinic Bible, and some of...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Rabbinic Bible in Its Sixteenth-Century Context
    (pp. 76-108)
    David Stern

    Since the publication some thirty years ago of Elizabeth Eisenstein’s The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, the revolutionary impact of printing on Western culture has been the subject of scholarly debate.¹ These debates have centered on the very nature of the transition from manuscript to print: over the question as to whether print was indeed a revolution in the true sense of the term; and whether its dramatic, near-universal impact lay in the technology of printing itself or in the changes wrought by its human agents and their consumers within local communities—printers, editors, booksellers, and readers. Whether...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Sixteenth-Century Jewish Internal Censorship of Hebrew Books
    (pp. 109-120)
    Joseph R. Hacker

    While Christian censorship of Hebrew books in the sixteenth century has received considerable scholarly attention, both after the opening of the Vatican archives in 1881¹ and, more recently, the opening of the Archive of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1998,² Jewish censorship of Hebrew prints, exercised by Jewish rabbinic or lay authorities, has rarely received attention.³ Although researchers have explored the participation of Jewish scholars in the process of Christian expurgation,⁴ very little is known about Jewish censorship. The lack of archival documentation is the main cause for the state of knowledge in the field, but...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Robert Bellarmine Reads Rashi: Rabbinic Bible Commentaries and the Burning of the Talmud
    (pp. 121-132)
    Piet van Boxel

    In the historiography of the turbulent relationship between Christians and Jews in the early modern period, the fate of the Talmud features prominently. Historians are inclined to argue that the burning of the Talmud on the Campo de’ Fiori on 9 September 1553 was welcomed by all representatives of the Roman Church without exception.¹ According to this view the action by order of the head of the Roman Inquisition, Cardinal Giampietro Caraffa, is understood as having been executed under direct authority of the pope.² Caraffa’s appeal to all local leaders to follow the Roman example therefore is alleged to have...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Dangerous Readings in Early Modern Modena: Negotiating Jewish Culture in an Italian Key
    (pp. 133-155)
    Federica Francesconi

    In the fall of 1614, two Jews, the banker Raffaele Modena of Sassuolo and the physician and philosopher Abraham ben Hananiah Yagel de Gallichi (1553–ca. 1623), paraded with the state troops in the streets of Modena, the capital city of the Este Duchy. This procession emphasized the authority of the Duke Cesare (1562–1628). The Jews were beneficiaries of his glory: because of his intervention, Abraham Yagel and Raffaele Modena had been released from some kidnappers.¹ Three years later, in December 1617, a new procession went across the streets of Modena and arrived before the duke: representatives of all...

  11. CHAPTER 8 The Printing of Devotion in Seventeenth-Century Italy: Prayer Books Printed for the Shomrim la-Boker Confraternities
    (pp. 156-170)
    Michela Andreatta

    Starting in the second half of the sixteenth century and with a dramatic increase during the seventeenth, Jewish devotional confraternities came to play a major role in the religious, social, and cultural life of Italian communities. Departing from both traditional pious confraternities for the care of the sick and the dead, and the newly established mutual aid societies, like those for ransoming slaves and prisoners or for dowering maidens, devotional confraternities tended to have a more strictly religious character and to circumscribe their main field of activity to deeds of ritual piety. In the overall atmosphere of an age in...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Hebrew Printing in Eighteenth-Century Livorno: From Government Control to a Free Market
    (pp. 171-196)
    Francesca Bregoli

    In the past twenty years, scholars have widely explored the importance of the printing business in the port of Livorno in connection to the history of the Italian Enlightenment and to the circulation of reformist ideas. Between the middle of the 1740s and the rise of Napoleon, the period that roughly corresponded to the phase of state reforms initiated by the Lorraine house in Tuscany, Livorno was a center of production and distribution of enlightened ideas in Italy and beyond, thanks to the open support, or silent approval, of the ruling dynasty. It was in Livorno that Cesare Beccaria was...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 197-308)
  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 309-312)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 313-324)
    (pp. 325-326)