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Encyclopedia Judaica:
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Modern Jewish History: Table of Contents | Bookplates | Labor


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Production and Treatment

The history of Hebrew bookmaking is as old as the history of the Jewish people and goes back for more than 3,000 years. It may be divided into three periods: from earliest times to the final editing of the Talmud (sixth or seventh centuries); from geonic times to the end of the 15th century and the first printed Hebrew books; and from then to the present day. To the first period belong the books of the *Bible , the *Apocrypha , and the non-biblical texts found among the *Dead Sea Scrolls . Other books are mentioned in the Bible (cf. Eccles. 12:12, "of making many books there is no end") and also in the Talmud, but it may be assumed that in the materials used, the writing techniques, and their format they were no different from books of the Bible. Toward the middle of the geonic period (ninth and tenth centuries) technical changes resulted from Arab influence and the growth of a European Diaspora and – more important still – from the common use of paper as writing material. The revolutionary impact of printing ushered in further developments. (This article will deal with the first period of Hebrew bookmaking; the second can be found under *Manuscripts , and the last under *Printing .)

WRITING MATERIALS

For Bible period see *Writing and Writing Materials . Papyrus is not mentioned in the Bible, though the Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash speak of neyar, which probably was not made out of the expensive papyrus but from tree bark and similar material. Papyri have also been found in the Dead Sea caves, among them a palimpsest of an eighth century B.C.E. letter. For sacred purposes only animal skin could be used, either in the form of gevil ("uncut skin"), which was reserved for Torah scrolls, or kelaf ("split skin," parchment"), which could be used for other biblical books and had to be used for phylacteries, while δύς χιστσς ("hard to split"), an inferior kind of parchment, was to be used for mezuzot (Shab. 79b; Meg. 2:2, cf. Arist. 176). Later halakhah permitted any parchment for sacred purposes if written on the inside of the skin, while leather was used on the cleaned hair side. Skins used for writing were also distinguished according to the treatment they received: maẓẓah, ḥippah, diftera (Shab. 79a). The use of Greek terms indicates the origin of the type of parchment or its method of manufacture. For sacred purposes only skins from ritually pure animals could be used (TJ, Meg. 1:11, 71d; Shab. 108a, based on Ex. 13:9); deerskins were preferred (Ket., 103b; TJ, Meg. ibid.). Wooden tablets covered with wax (pinkas, פִּנְקָס, πίυαξ), potsherds (ostraca), tree or plant leaves, and fishskins were for profane use only.

SCROLLS

In antiquity all books, Jewish or non-Jewish, were scrolls. The Torah presented in the third century to Ptolemy II (Philadelphus) of Egypt by the high priest from Jerusalem so that it might be translated into Greek ( *Septuagint ) was unrolled before him (Arist. 176–7; cf. I. Macc. 3:48; Rev. 5:1). One of the Torah scrolls kept in the Temple (TJ, Ta'an. 4:2, 68a) was carried through Rome among the spoils in the triumphal procession of Titus (Jos., Wars 7:5, 150, 162), but the theory that it is pictured on the Arch of Titus (T. Reinach, in REJ 20, 1894) is not tenable. Talmud and Midrash speak mainly of scroll-books. The high priest on the Day of Atonement read from a scroll during the Temple service and then rolled it up (Yoma 7:1; Sot. 7:7), as was done after each reading of the Law. This was an honor reserved for the leader of the congregation (Meg. 32a). If a man received a Torah scroll in deposit, he had to roll it open for airing once a year (BM 29b). A Torah scroll was rolled from both ends toward the middle, each end being attached to a cylindrical handle called ammud ("pillar," BB 14a) or, in later times, eẓ ḥayyim ("tree of life"), enough parchment being left clear of writing for wrapping round the handle. Other scrolls had only one handle on the right end, while on the left enough parchment was left vacant for wrapping the whole scroll (BB 13b). In the Septuagint the word megillah is translated by Κεφαλίς ("head-piece"), referring to the handle, which thus is used to stand for the whole scroll (Ezek. 2:9; 3:1–3; Ps. 40:8). This shows that the handles were already in use in the last centuries B.C.E.

In any event, there is no reference in either biblical or talmudic literature to books in the form of codices with folded pages, unless the pinkas, which could have as many as 24 tablets (Lam. R. 1:14), should be regarded as its precursor. The term tomos ("volume," from Greek and Latin) is used in the Tosefta (Shab. 13:4; BK 9:31) for which there is a Hebrew synonym takhrikh (BM 1:8); but it is not clear whether some sort of codex is meant or the traditional scroll, made of sheets sewn together. *Jerome (fourth century), who speaks of Hebrew Bibles in the possession of Christians, does not mention any Hebrew codex. However, by the fifth century most books, like the earliest Christian ones, are codices. Passages in such late talmudic works as Soferim (3:6; cf. ed. Mueller, 46–47) and in the minor tractate Sefer Torah (1:2) have been interpreted as referring to codices (Blau, in Magyar Zsidó Szemle 21, 1904, 284–8; idem, Sul libro, 38–45).

SINGLE AND COMBINED SCROLLS

Biblical books certainly remained in scroll form, and those used in the synagogue have preserved this format. For liturgical use the five books of the Pentateuch had to be written on one single scroll (Git. 60a). According to one tradition, the Torah consisted of seven scrolls, with a division of Numbers at chapter 10:35–36, these two verses making a separate book (Shab. 115b–116a; Lev. R. 11:3; Yad. 3:5). The division of books of the Bible was largely determined by the size of the scroll. Samuel and Kings were probably originally one book but were divided and subdivided for size. The Book of Psalms too was divided into five books at an early date. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles were originally one book, as suggested by the identity of the last two verses of Chronicles with the first two of Ezra-Nehemiah. Smaller books, such as the two parts of Isaiah and of Zechariah, were combined into one scroll. The fact that the *Minor Prophets were called the Twelve Prophets as early as Ben Sira 49:10 (third–second centuries B.C.E.) proves both their separate and combined entity (see also *Hebrew Book Titles ).

Talmudic sources reflect the existence of scrolls containing both single and combined books of the Bible. Single books (Psalms, Job, Proverbs), though much worn, may be given to a widow in payment or part payment of her marriage settlement (Git. 35a). The combination of single books into Pentateuch, Prophets, and Hagiographa respectively is discussed as a halakhic problem. Whether those three could be combined or written in one scroll – at least for liturgical use – was controversial, but the halakhah was decided in the affirmative (BB 13b; TJ, Meg. 3:1, 73d–74a; cf. TJ, Yoma 6:1, 44a). According to one opinion Baitos (Boethos) b. Zonin had the eight prophetic books fastened together with the approval of Eleazar b. Azariah; while Judah ha-Nasi reports that his court's approval was given for a complete Bible in this form (BB 13b). Heirs who had inherited biblical books were not allowed to divide between them a single scroll, but could do so if they were separate ones (ibid.). The five books: Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther (see the Five *Scrolls ) are called megillot (scrolls), the last one known as "the megillah" in Mishnah and Talmud, because it had to be read publicly from a parchment scroll (Meg. 2:2). Like the Sefer Torah, the Scroll of Esther retains the scroll form today. At a later stage the custom arose – and is still current – of reading the other four megillot on special occasions, in some communities also from scrolls.

NON-BIBLICAL BOOKS

For special purposes excerpts from the biblical books were written in separate scrolls or on one or more sheets (pinkas). The most important example is the Sefer Aftarta, the collection of weekly prophetic readings (Git. 60a, see *Haftarah ) which in some communities is still used today. In the same talmudic passage the use of Sifrei Aggadeta ("homiletical books") is mentioned as well as the question whether megillot, meaning excerpts from the Pentateuch, could be written for teaching purposes. Though the conclusion is negative, it was the practice to copy the *Shema and the *Hallel psalms for this purpose (Tosef., Yad. 2:11). According to Numbers 5:23, the curses against the woman suspected of adultery had to be written on a scroll (sefer), and the writing dissolved in water for her to drink. This scroll was called Megillat Sotah (Sot. 2:3–4; TB, 17a–18a), for which Queen *Helena of Adiabene presented to the Temple a master copy inscribed on a golden tablet (Yoma 3:10). Genealogical tables current in Temple and talmudic times were called megillot or Sefer Yuḥasin (Yev. 4:13; 49a–b; Mid. 5:4; Pes. 62b, Gen. R. 98:7), and these are also mentioned by Josephus (Life 6; Apion 1:7; see also *Archives ). The Mishnah mentions heretical books under the collective name of Sefarim Ḥiẓonim (i.e., "external books"; Sanh. 10:1), and this has been variously interpreted in Talmud and Midrash (Sanh. 100b and Alfasi ibid.; TJ, Sanh. 10:1, 28a; Eccl. R. 12:12 no. 7). Similar books were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. These discoveries, the oldest Hebrew (or Aramaic) manuscripts in existence – some belonging to the second century B.C.E. – have considerably increased knowledge of this field. Besides manuscripts written on parchment, leather, or papyrus, a *copper scroll was found, on which a Hebrew text is engraved. Y. Yadin (Megillat Milḥemet… (1958), 107–8) found that the Dead Sea Scrolls generally conform to the talmudic rules for the writing of sacred scrolls. Though the writing down of the Oral Law was strictly forbidden, this was circumvented by the notes taken down on so-called megillot setarim, i.e., private notebooks or such as the Sifrei Aggadeta (Shab. 6b; BM 92a; Maas. 2:4, 49d; Shab. 156a; Kil. 1:1, 27a).

SIZE OF BOOKS

From the description in the Mishnah of the reading from the Torah by the high priest on the Day of Atonement (Yoma 7:1) and by the king on the occasion of *Hakhel (Sot. 7:8), this Temple scroll cannot have been unduly large. The measurements mentioned in the Talmud are 6 by 6 hand-breadths (44 × 44 cm.) and the scroll was to be of equal height and width – but this was admittedly difficult to achieve (BB 14a). The script had to be correspondingly small – the Torah alone consists of over 300,000 letters. Jerome (Prologium ad Ezeckielem, 20) complained that the Hebrew Bible text could hardly be read by daylight, let alone by the light of a lamp, but diminutive script was widely used in antiquity, and Jews were familiar with the Bible from childhood.

DETAILS IN USE OF PARCHMENT

Usually only one side of the writing material was used. In the Talmud the column is called daf ("board"), which is still used today for the double folio of the Talmud, the term for the single page being ammud ("pillar"), the common word for page in modern Hebrew, as distinct from ammudah for the half-page column. For the writing of Torah and other liturgical scrolls detailed instructions regulate height and width, space to be left between, over, and below the columns, as well as between lines, words, and letters. There are rules for the spacing between the various books of the Pentateuch and of the Prophets, and specific instructions on how many columns a single parchment sheet (yeri'ah) should be divided into, how many letters should be accommodated in one line (27), and how many lines in one column (Men. 30a–b; TJ, Meg. 1:11, 71c–d, Sh. Ar., YD 271–8). Poetical passages in the Bible such as the Songs of Moses (Ex. 15; Deut. 32:1–43) and of Deborah (Judg. 5), II Samuel 22, and some lists, such as Joshua 12 and Esther 9:7–10, had to be written in special form of "bricks and half-bricks" (Meg. 16b). The ruling of the parchment – which had to be done with an instrument but not with ink or color – was required for sacred texts (Meg. 18b; Men. 32b) but was general practice as well (see Git. 7a).

WRITING INSTRUMENTS

In talmudic times the makhtev (Avot 5:6; Pes. 54a; TJ Ta'an. 4:8, 69a) was used, which corresponds to the Greek γραφίου and the Latin graphium. It had one sharp pointed end for writing and one broad end for erasing (Kel. 13:2). For writing on parchment or paper the kolmos (κάλαμος) made of reed was more suitable. The Hebrew word for ink (deyo) occurs as early as Jeremiah 36:18; this was black Indian ink usually made of lampblack and gum to which occasionally an iron compound was added. Other writing liquids are mentioned in the Talmud, such as komos (κόμμι, commis), acacia resin, or gum arabic; mei afaẓim, the juice of gallnuts (Shab. 104b; Git 19a), whose use in writing Torah scrolls became a matter of controversy in the Middle Ages; and kalkantum (χάλκαυτος), copper vitriol, also used as an admixture for Indian ink. For the rabbis the important consideration for sanctioning the use of one ink in preference to another was durability (Shab. 12:5; Git. 2:3). According to the Letter of *Aristeas the Torah scroll presented to Ptolemy Philadelphus and the Torah scrolls used by Alexandrian Jews (in Jerusalem?) had letters written in gold; the rabbis frowned on such ostentation and prohibited it for liturgical use (Shab. 103b; Sof. 1:9; cf. Song R. 1:11). Chrysography was of great antiquity: papyri with gold script of the Twenty-Second Egyptian Dynasty are in the Gizeh museum. Jerome and Chrysostom – like many rabbis before them – criticize the custom of writing Bibles on purple parchment with gold script and the use of precious stones. In his writing kit the scribe had, beside other auxiliary tools, an inkwell (biblical keset ha-sofer, Ezra 9:3), talmudic beit deyo (Tosef., BM 4:11), or kalamarin (Kel. 2:7). Examples of such (Roman type) inkwells were discovered in the ruins of *Qumran , some of them with remnants of a carbon ink still in them. They belonged to the equipment of a special Scriptorium, a writing room for the scribes of the Qumran sect. Such an inkwell was also found in excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem.

KEEPING OF BOOKS

Scrolls, being valuable, were kept with care. Sacred books had to be wrapped in mitpaḥot (sing. mitpaḥat; Shab 9:6), and it was forbidden to touch them with bare hands (Shab. 14a; 133b; Meg. 32a; cf. II Cor. 3:14–16). The wraps were made of linen, silk, purple materials, or leather. Today's Torah mantle (see *Torah ornaments ) has a long history. Some Dead Sea Scrolls were found preserved in linen wrappings. Books were kept in chests, alone or with other things; the synagogue *Ark is a survivor of these chests. Earthenware jars were also used as receptacles for books from Bible times (Jer. 32: 14). These have preserved for posterity the treasures of the Dead Sea caves, the *Elephantine Letters , etc. Baskets too were used for keeping books (Meg. 26b).

GENIZAH

Worn sacred books had to be reverently "hidden away" – in a *genizah – and were eventually buried (Shab. 16:1; Meg. 26b). This accounts for the fact that so few Torah or Bible fragments have been preserved from antiquity, as parchment, let alone papyrus, decays in the ground. Where the genizah was limited to storing away, it made possible such treasure troves as those from the Dead Sea caves and the Cairo *Genizah . Heretical books too were condemned to genizah, and these included almost anything not admitted to the *Bible canon (Shab. 30b; 115a; Pes. 56a).

OWNERSHIP OF BOOKS

While books were costly and rare in antiquity, by the second century B.C.E. some Jews possessed their own copies of biblical books. During the persecution preceding the Hasmonean revolt, those caught possessing sacred books were burned with them (I Macc. 1:56–57; 3:48; II Macc. 2:14–15; cf. *Haninah b. Teradyon 's martyrdom, Av. Zar. 18a). On the Day of Atonement the burghers of Jerusalem could each produce their Sefer Torah for the admiration of all (Yoma 70a). True wealth was books, and it was charity to loan them out (Ket. 50a on Ps. 112:3). Special laws applied to the finding, borrowing, and depositing of books (BM 2:8; BM 29b), whether and under what circumstances it was permitted to sell them (Meg. 27a; see *Book Trade ), and the provocative query whether a room filled with books requires a mezuzah at its door. This latter question is put into the mouth of Korah (TJ, Sanh. 10:1, 27d). Sacred books were above all owned by municipalities and synagogues (Ned. 5:5; Meg. 3:1). Schoolchildren, too, usually had their own books (Deut. R. 8; TJ, Ta'an. 4:8, 69a). Mention is also made of books being written and owned by gentiles, heretics, and Samaritans (Git. 4:6; 45a–b; Men. 42b).

Bindings

Bookbindings as such first made their appearance toward the end of the fourth century. Sheaves of pages (pen manuscript) were fastened together by means of two covers and a back, and then tied with strings. The early bookbindings from the Cairo Genizah were made of parchment with laces sewn on for fastening. Yemenite Jews used similar bindings down to a relatively recent date. These early bindings are without ornamentation. Sometimes parchment or leather ends were left for carrying the book from place to place, and on these ends the name of the copyist or owner occasionally appears.

MIDDLE AGES

In the later Middle Ages examples of Islamic bookbinding arrived in Europe by way of Venice, bookbinders apparently also migrating from Byzantium; these specimens were remarkable primarily for their gold decoration. At about the same time goat-skin binding appeared; formerly it was considered a secret of the Islamic artisans. This led to smaller and lighter bindings. Colored bindings also originated in Islamic countries, and some beautiful examples have survived. Documents from the Cairo Genizah reveal that ready-made leather book covers were imported from Europe into Egypt for decoration. A 12th-century list of books speaks of their red, black, and white covers (S.D. Goitein, Mediterranean Society, 1 (1967), 112).

The bindings of ancient and heavy parchment volumes were generally not decorated but received "blind-stamping" or gilding only. In the decoration of bindings by Jews the influence of the environment is usually recognizable: that of Islamic countries and Byzantium and that of Christian monastic bookbinders at a later date, in the early and late Middle Ages respectively. The bindings reveal the period of their manufacture, and some book collections were arranged according to the style or origin of the bindings. The 13th-century Sefer Ḥasidim (no. 345) advocates binding good books with handsome bindings. It also mentions a case of a Jew learning the craft from a monk, and considers whether to have sacred books bound by a Jew or by a monk, who was the better binder (no. 280). Medieval responsa literature reveals occasional references to bookbinding.

Particular care was bestowed upon the bindings of communal prayer books (e.g., the Worms Maḥzor of 1272) and *Memorbuch , of which some magnificent examples have been preserved, though the date of the bindings is often uncertain. Many communities disposed of special funds to pay for the binding or repairing of books in communal ownership.

Until the 17th century, binders prepared book covers by pasting together paper pages, often using old *manuscripts , cutting them and pasting them together until they achieved the desired thickness (cf. Rashba, Resp. no. 166). Christian binders sometimes used Jewish manuscripts for this purpose, particularly when anti-Jewish riots and the looting of libraries had provided them with the necessary materials. Remnants of valuable manuscripts and *Incunabula have been discovered in such bindings. Books belonging to synagogues or academies had to be carefully guarded and would be attached by iron chains to the table or the shelves in the library.

MEDIEVAL BOOKBINDERS

In the 14th century the official bookbinders at the papal court at Avignon were frequently Jews. Cases are recorded of Jews being commissioned to execute the bindings of a missal or a codex of Canon Law to be presented to a friend or relative of the pope. A certain Meir (Makhir) Solomo made artistic bindings for the royal treasury in Aragon (1367–89). From the *bull of the antipope Benedict XIII of 1415, prohibiting Jews from, among other things, binding books in which the names of Jesus or Mary occur, it is evident how important a role Jews played in the craft. On the back of a leather-bound copy of the Perpignan Bible (written in 1299), a calendar was engraved in niello-work about 1470 in honor of the owners, the Kalonymos family (see M. Narkiss , in Memorial Volume… Sally Meyer (1956), 180).

The most prominent name in this field in the 15th century was that of Meir *Jaffe of Ulm , who belonged to a family of Franconian artisans. Apart from bookbinding, he was also well-known as a manuscript copyist; 15 of his bindings have so far been found (in the libraries of London, Munich, Nuremberg, and Ansbach). He was the master of a special art called cuir ciselé. The artist decorated the book covers by cutting ornaments and figures into the moist leather and then, by various methods, raising them into relief. This old-established craft reached its peak in the gothic style of 14th–15th-century Germany. Though it may not have been a Jewish invention, Jews became the supreme practitioners of this method, which became known therefore as "Jewish leather cutting." One of the special features of these bindings of Hebrew books is grotesques, though the genre is found elsewhere in gothic art. Jewish artists preferred "leather-cutting" to the more frequent, simpler, and cheaper method of "blind-stamping." The wandering Jewish artisan, traveling light by necessity, also may have found the chiseling knife easier to carry than the heavy dies.

Jaffe was responsible for the binding – executed in 1468 – of a manuscript Pentateuch (Munich State Library, Cod. Hebr. 212) belonging to the city of Nuremberg. In return the city council gave him permission to stay in the city for several months and follow his calling. This in itself is eloquent testimony to his eminence as a binder (he is called "a supreme artist"), as he must have evoked envy and opposition from the local craftsmen. Though the names of binders rarely appear on medieval books, Jaffe embossed this Bible with the Hebrew inscription: החומש הזה לעידה מנירנברקא שיח' מאיר המצייר. "This Pentateuch belongs to the Council of Nuremberg, may they live [long] – Meir [Jaffe], the artist." On another of his works (c. 1470) Jaffe, using calfskin on wooden boards, portrays a scholar on a high chair scanning a book placed before him on a pedestal. The rim of the binding is decorated with flowers. Two metal claps are engraved with the letter M in Gothic type, probably being Meir's initial. In 1490 the city of Noerdlingen (Wuerttemberg) made payment to a Jew for binding the Stadtbuch. It may well have been Meir Jaffe.

With the invention of printing in the 15th century and the proliferation of books more Jewish bookbinders are found all over Europe. In Poland, during the reign of Sigismund III (1587–1632), Jewish craftsmen were employed by church and state (see M. Kramer , in: Zion, 2 (1937), 317). In Italy, in the 17th and 18th centuries, Bibles or prayer books were bound in silver, lavishly decorated, to serve as bridal presents (sivlonot), sometimes bearing a representation of a biblical scene relating to the bride's or bridegroom's name, or the coats-of-arms of the two families. The art of filigree binding arose in Italy and France in the 17th century and spread to other European countries. At the same time embroidered or tortoiseshell bindings, though not characteristically Jewish, made their appearance in Holland and Germany, from where they spread eastward. Jews bound their ritualia, particularly bridal prayer books, in these beautiful materials. On these bindings metal, usually silver, is used for clasps and corners, and both are often finely engraved and decorated with emblems, monograms, or animal figures representing certain Jewish virtues. These ornately bound books are sometimes inlaid with precious stones and even miniature drawings of the woman to whom they were presented. Similarly bound and decorated books figured as presentations by communities, societies, or wealthy individuals to Jewish or non-Jewish notables on special occasions: a rabbi or communal leader's jubilee, a sovereign's visit, or as a sign of appreciation for favors bestowed or assistance given.

MODERN TIMES

From the 19th century onward, with growing prosperity particularly among Western Jewry, the art of binding Hebrew or Jewish books developed. In Ereẓ Israel, the establishment of the *Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem in 1906 included a deliberate effort to develop a specifically Jewish style in bookbinding. This produced olive-wood covers for a variety of books. Yemenite artisans too brought with them a tradition of bindings made from leather, silver, and gold filigree, and their productions have retained their popularity. There is, however, a more artistic and less traditional trend which has produced some magnificent bindings, such as that of the Golden Book and the Barmitzvah Book at the head office of the Jewish National Fund in Jerusalem.

[B. Mordechai Ansbacher]

Book Illustrations

In the early days of printing the illustrations were far inferior to those in contemporary *illuminated manuscripts . European printing as a whole was preceded by block books, in which the text was subordinate to the illustrations. Hence, the illustrated book existed from the very beginning of printing. In early Hebrew printing nothing of the sort is known; but the very nature of the illustrated book subjected it to more wear than ordinary volumes, and it may well be that some early illustrated works have been thumbed out of existence. There are indeed some surviving wood-blocks showing Passover scenes which were probably printed in Venice c. 1480. These may have been prepared for the illustration of a Hebrew work. The earliest Hebrew printed books, however, while – like other books – leaving a space for illuminated words or letters to be inserted by hand, relied for their decorative effect entirely on the disposition of the type, which was sometimes ornamented. Such is the case with the Turim of Pieve di Sacco (1475), the second (dated) Hebrew book to be completed in type.

DECORATIVE BORDERS

It was only at a slightly later period that, in imitation of the more sophisticated (but not fully illuminated) manuscripts of the period, decorative borders began to be used for the opening – there were no title pages yet – and occasionally also for some of the more significant later pages.

The first Hebrew book to make use of a border was the Pentateuch printed at Hijar in Spain about 1486. The border, however, designed by Alonso Fernandez de *Cordoba , was not on the opening page but appeared as a decoration to the Song of Moses (Ex. 15), as in some Spanish Hebrew Bible manuscripts. This border is outstanding with its beautiful traceries and charming animal figures. It appeared later in the Manuale Saragossanum, one of the great monuments of early Spanish printing, in which Cordoba and the Jewish printer Solomon Zalmati had collaborated. The border around the first page of the Turim, printed by Samuel d'Ortas at Leiria in Portugal in 1495, is of particular interest. This, presumably cut by a Jewish artist and incorporating Hebrew letters, elaborates on the similes in the opening passage of the work. About the same time, the Soncino family in Italy were making use of elegant black-and-white borders borrowed from non-Jewish sources. In some cases, in order to comply with the requirements of a Hebrew book, where the opening page needed to have the wider margin on the right rather than on the left, they sometimes broke up the border and in rare cases even had it recur to adjust to the requirements of Hebrew printing. The border used in Baḥya's commentary on the Bible (Ezriel Gunzenhausen, Naples, 1492) appears to have been designed and cut by the Hebrew printer's brother-in-law, Moses b. Isaac. This border also appears in the Italian work L'Aquila Volante, produced there at about the same time by Aiolfo de' Cantoni. Many of these borders were transferred from press to press, or taken by the refugees from country to country. Thus the Hijar border referred to above appears in Lisbon in 1489, and later, increasingly worn and indistinct, in various works produced in Turkey between 1505 and 1509. The Naples border was used in Constantinople in 1531/32. There are some superbly designed borders around some pages of the Prague Haggadah of 1526. For the Mantua editions of 1550 and 1560 these were entirely recut, as framework around the identical text. With the development of the engraved title page in the 16th century, the use of borders became an exceptional luxury, as in some of the royal publications of the Mantuan press in the 18th century.

ENGRAVED TITLE PAGES

It is only in 1505 that the first title page appears in a Hebrew book. Thereafter, these also received special care, later being enclosed within an engraved border in the form of a gate (hence the common Hebrew term for title page, sha'ar, "gate"), often flanked by twisted columns and later and not infrequently by figures of Moses and Aaron. In due course specially executed vignettes of biblical scenes or Jewish ritual observances were incorporated in these title pages. Printers' marks, first introduced in 1485 in Spain, became common from the 16th century.

ILLUSTRATED WORKS

Illustrations in the conventional sense first figure in a Hebrew book, so far as is known, in 1491, when the Brescia edition of the fable-book Mashal ha-Kadmoni by Isaac ibn *Sahula contained a number of cuts illustrating the various fables (repeated in the Barco edition of 1497/98). After this, it was customary to add illustrations to most books of fables, for example the Yiddish Kuhbuch (Frankfurt, 1687). The prayers for rain and dew recited on the feasts of Tabernacles and Passover were often accompanied in Ashkenazi prayer books with the signs of the Zodiac, which, however, first appear in a far from religious work, the frivolous Maḥberot Immanuel by Immanuel of *Rome (Brescia, 1491).

MINHAGIM BOOKS

Another favorite medium for book illustration was the books of customs or occasional prayers known as *minhagim books , also following a tradition that goes back to the days of manuscript illustration. The Birkat ha-Mazon (Prague, 1514) contains a few woodcuts illustrating the text which are similar to those produced in later Haggadot. At the turn of the century, in 1593 and 1601, two minhagim books were produced in Italy, lavishly illustrated with woodcuts depicting almost every stage of and event in the Jewish religious year. The later work is the more delicate and its illustrations seem to reflect faithfully the realia of Italian Jewish life of the period. The earlier one, published possibly for export, is more northern European in character, and perhaps for that reason became more popular. These illustrations were constantly reproduced in similar German and Dutch publications down to the middle of the 18th century.

PASSOVER HAGGADOT

The most popular subject for illumination among Hebrew manuscripts was the Passover *Haggadah , and this tradition naturally continued in the age of printing. The earliest known example of this is in some fragments conjecturally ascribed to Turkey (but obviously printed by Spanish exiles) c. 1515. But the oldest dated illustrated Haggadah now extant is that of Prague of 1526, published by Gershon Kohen and his brother Gronem and apparently illustrated in part by their brother-in-law Ḥayyim Schwarz or Shaḥor. This lovely production is one of the most memorable specimens of the 16th-century Hebrew press, the three fully decorated pages being especially noteworthy. It was exactly copied so far as the text was concerned but with fresh borders in the Mantua Haggadah of 1560, much improved in the subsequent edition of 1568. After some further experiments, an entirely fresh and more amply illustrated edition of the work was published by Israel Zifroni in Venice in 1609. This continued to be republished with few changes until late in the 18th century and served as the model for the Haggadot produced in the Mediterranean basin (e.g., at Leghorn) down to recent times. In 1695, the Venetian Haggadah served as the model for the edition published in Amsterdam with copper-plate illustrations by the convert to Judaism who called himself *Abraham b. Jacob . Though the general arrangement of the work and the choice of subjects was strongly influenced by the Venetian edition, the artist based his art to a great extent on illustrations to the Bible and other imaginative details gathered from the publications of Matthew Merian of Basle. The work reappeared with minor changes a few years later (Amsterdam, 1699) and served as the model for a large number of editions produced in central Europe throughout the 18th century and after. The actual illustrations, much deteriorated, continue to be reprinted or copied in popular editions down to the present day. Of the some 3,000 editions of the Passover Haggadah which are recorded, over 300 are illustrated. In recent years, artists of great reputation ( Arthur *Szyk , Ben *Shahn , etc.) have collaborated in or produced illustrated editions of this favorite work.

OTHER WORKS

Other Hebrew works which were traditionally enriched with illustrations – in most cases very crude – included the Yiddish pseudo-Josephus ( *Josippon ), from the Zurich edition of 1547 onward; and the women's compendium of biblical history, *Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah , in numerous Dutch and German editions of the 17th and 18th centuries. On the other hand, for obvious reasons, the Hebrew Bible was never illustrated until a few experiments appeared in the second half of the 19th century.

PORTRAITS

Portraits of an author occasionally appear in Hebrew books printed in Holland and Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries; for example, Joseph Solomon del Medigo in his Sefer Elim (Amsterdam, 1629) and Moses Ḥefeẓ (Gentili) in his Melekhet Maḥashevet (Venice, 1701). The Kehunnat Avraham by Abraham ha-Kohen of Zante (Venice, 1719) has, after the elaborately engraved title page, a portrait which seems to be by the author himself. A portrait of the rabbi Solomon *Hirschel surprisingly accompanied the London prayer book edition of 1809. Judah Leon *Templo 's works on the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon (1650 etc.) included fine illustrative engravings.

[Cecil Roth]


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Production: L. Loew, Graphische Requisiten und Erzeugnisse bei den Juden, 2 vols. (1870–71); M. Steinschneider, Vorlesungen ueber die Kunde der hebraeischen Manuskripte (19372); L. Blau, Das althebraeische Buchwesen (1902); idem, in: Festschrift A. Berliner (1903), 41–49; idem, Papyri und Talmud in gegenseitiger Beleuchtung (1913); idem, in: Soncino-Blaetter, 1 (1025/26), 16–28; Krauss, Tal Arch, 3 (1912) 131–98; H. Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (19596), 12–20 and notes; S. Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1950), 84–88, 203–8; Beit Arié, in: KS, 43 (1967/68), 411ff.; M. Martin, Scribal Character of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2 vols. (1958); G.R. Driver, Judaean Scrolls (1965), 403–10. BINDINGS; M. Steinschneider, op. cit., 33–35; Husung, in: Soncino-Blaetter, 1 (1925/26), 29–43 and 3 pls.; Kurz, in: Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, 24 (1965), 3–11, two facsimiles; C. Roth, in: Jewish Art (1961), 350, 503–4; idem, Jews in Renaissance (1959), 201–2. ILLUSTRATIONS: C. Roth, in: Bodleian Library Record, 4 (1952–53), 295–303; A. Marx, Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (1944), 289–300.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

 

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