BAK (also Pak), a family of Jewish printers of Ashkenazi origin, who lived first in Venice and later in Prague. According to Zunz, the name represents the initials of Benei Kedoshim (Children of the Martyrs).
GERSON, the progenitor of the family, lived in Italy in the early 16th century, where his son JACOB followed the printing trade. Jacob printed the Midrash Tanḥuma in Verona (1595) and in Venice Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu (1598), and Tiferet Yisrael by *Judah Loew (the Maharal) of Prague in 1599. Apparently his connections with the latter brought him to Prague. From 1605 until his death in 1618 he printed numerous Hebrew and Judeo-German books. He was succeeded by his sons JOSEPH and JUDAH, who in 1623 set up a new printing house called "Jacob Bak's Sons." Their output was considerable, despite the temporary slowing down during the Thirty Years' War and the persecutions of 1648/49 and 1656. In about 1660 Joseph left the printing business, and Judah carried on alone. A libel action brought against the press led to its closing down in 1669. Judah died in 1671, and two years later his sons, JACOB (1630–1688) and JOSEPH (d. 1696), were authorized to resume printing books, as "Judah Bak's sons," but a special permit was required for each book. In 1680 Joseph completed a maḥzor at nearby Weckelsdorf – the only Hebrew work ever printed there. Between 1680 and 1683 Joseph apparently continued alone in Prague, while Jacob worked under the name "Judah Bak's Sons" (1682–88). Joseph was joined by Jacob's son MOSES (d. 1712), in 1686. From 1697 Moses ran the firm with his cousin, Joseph's son (later "The Bak Press"). Moses' son JUDAH (d. 1767/68), who was a compositor, managed the press from 1735 to 1756. In 1757 Judah's brother YOM TOV LIPMANN joined as his partner, and the firm became "Moses Bak's Sons." The firm later became "The Bak and Katz Press" (1784–89), and afterwards passed into other hands entirely. The Bak family members were pioneers in the field of Jewish printing, while also making an important contribution to the Jewish community of the time. Israel *Bak, the printer of Safed and Jerusalem, does not seem to have any connection with this Bak family.
Zunz, Gesch, 264–6, 282–303; S. Hock, Mishpeḥot K.K. Prag (1892), 46–48; H.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Arim… she-be-Eiropah ha-Tikhonah (1937), 19–26; A. Tauber, Meḥkarim Bibliografiyyim (1932), 9–14; A. Yaari, Ha-Defusha-Ivri be-Arẓot ha-Mizraḥ (1937), 14–15.
[Abraham Meir Habermann]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.