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Hebrew Printing

Pre-Modern Period

The first mention of Jews in connection with printing is found in Avignon c. 1444 (before Gutenberg) when a Jew, Davin de Caderousse, studied the new craft. The first Hebrew books were printed at least within 35 years after the invention of printing – the first dated ones being Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch and Jacob b. Asher's Arba'ah Turim of 1475 (see *Incunabula ). This new and wonderful invention was called the "crown of all science," and its practice, like that of writing of sacred books, melekhet shamayim ("a divine craft," see Er. 13a) or melekhet ha-kodesh ("a sacred craft," Ex. 36:4). It was regarded as a means to realize Isaiah's prediction (11:9) that "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord." There were, on the other hand, interested parties such as the copy-ists, who feared for their livelihood and who opposed the innovation, as did those monk-copyists who described it as the "work of the devil." Printing raised halakhic problems as shown by contemporary responsa: the question arose whether the halakhah concerning the writing of sacred books and the care and respect due to them was applicable to printed books as well and whether, in particular, Sifrei Torah, tefillin, mezuzot, bills of divorce, etc., could be printed. Despite difficulties, the production of Hebrew books grew: David Kimḥi's Sefer ha-Shorashim saw three editions within a decade.

Printing had a revolutionary influence on the religious and cultural life of Jewish communities everywhere: on books and their distribution, on learning and education, on synagogal rites, etc. The order and division of the books of the *Bible , which today differ from both the talmudic and masoretic traditions, and the division into chapters in particular, are the result of printing. The printing of the Bible popularized it, while dictionaries and grammars, now easily obtainable, contributed greatly to the understanding of the Bible. The same is true for the Talmud, with its standard pagination originating in the first complete Bomberg edition (1520–23). The study of the Talmud became easier and far more widespread, and the printing alongside of the text, in addition to Rashi's commentary, of the *Tosafot of Touques gave talmudic learning a new direction which led to the development of the novellae literature and of pilpul. The widespread use of printed prayer books reduced the importance and relative freedom of the reader; minor rites were eliminated in favor of the major ones, which in turn became fixed and standardized by the printed text. Purely local variations of rite have survived in manuscripts only. Earlier (1477) the word defus (talmudic: frame, mold) was used as a noun for printing, alliterating to the Latin typus. To describe the activity, the same word as for writing (katav) or engraving (ḥakak) was chosen, from which was derived meḥokek for the printer; but also

Main locations and start of Hebrew printing, 15th20th centuries. Main locations and start of Hebrew printing, 15th–20th centuries.

ha'atek (to copy) which led to the noun he'etek for the copy of a printed book. Occasionally one finds such strange circumscriptions as "writing with many pens" (cf. Yoma 38b) or "writing without a pen." By the 16th century the derivatives from defus in the verb-forms of hidpis and nidpas – and madpis for the printer – were in common use, though some of the early terminology such as mehokek survived in Germany and Eastern Europe for a considerable time. (For Hebrew printing in the 15th century, see *Incunabula .)


The early book productions had no signature, a device which was introduced by Joshua *Soncino in 1483. Usually, the signature is found on the left side of the bottom of the page in Hebrew alphabetical numbers, but some Augsburg, Constantinople, and Salonika issues of the early 16th century have them on the top left or bottom right corner. Up to about 1515 only Hebrew letters were used, but Daniel *Bomberg introduced Arabic figures as well. In rare cases the alphabet took the place of numbers (Kol Bo, Rimini, 1525, Rome, 1545). Pagination was introduced later than the signature. No incunabulum appears to have had it. The first to have had numbered folios, though not very consistently so, is Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, printed in Constantinople in 1509. Soncino did not number his pages to the end. Of Bomberg's productions those prepared by Adelkind – with the exception of Bibles and prayer books – have numbered folios; from 1525 this is the case with all Bomberg's work, and most other Italian printers followed his example. The Hebrew number appears on the upper left of the first page in Bomberg's works; other printers added Arabic figures. One work printed in Sabbioneta and one in Cremona repeat the number on the upper right of the second page of the leaf. Pagination of pages is rather rare at first, exceptions being the works of Stephanus at Paris, Plan-tin at Antwerp, and Zanetti at Rome in the 16th century. The Cremona Zohar of 1559 has two columns to each page and numbers opposite every tenth line.


Title pages, too, make their first appearance in the 16th century. In the incunabula the text begins at first on the first page, but from 1483 the first page or folio is empty. The early title pages were very simple, with only a title, *colophon , place, and year. Whatever ornaments would appear on the first page of the text were then transferred to the title page. Such decorations – woodcuts of initials and border ornaments – were introduced by the Soncinos. Printers in Naples (Joseph b. Jacob *Gunzenhauser ), as well as in Spain and Portugal, also used framed initials. Bomberg, following the general trend in book production, discarded the border ornaments and introduced the title page portal.


The first half of the 16th century was in many ways the golden age of Hebrew printing, with Italy and the house of *Soncino (until 1526) in a leading position. (See Map: Hebrew Printing Locations). Gershon Soncino published mainly the Bible and its commentators, prayer books, and single Talmud tractates. His great competitor was Daniel Bomberg, the Christian printer from Antwerp, who from 1516 (or perhaps a few years earlier) to 1549 systematically issued the basic texts of Judaism in hitherto unequaled typographical perfection. With Bomberg Venice became the capital of Hebrew printing until well into the 18th century: in the above period the names of *Giustiniani and *Bragadini were outstanding. Elsewhere in Italy Samuel Latif printed in Mantua (1513–15). In 1518 the sons of Avigdor of Padua were active in Rome, where Samuel Ẓarefati printed in 1540–45 and Antonio Blado in 1545–46; another son of Avigdor used German square type in a siddur issued in Trino in 1525. More important were the productions of the Jewish silk-makers in Bologna (1537–40), mainly beautifully finished prayer books of the Italian rite of which many copies printed on parchment have survived.

Constantinople, Salonika, and Fez

Next to Italy in importance were Constantinople (1493) and Salonika (1513) where Hebrew printing was introduced by exiles from Spain and Portugal; the Soncinos began their activity in Salonika in 1527/28 and in Constantinople in 1530. Iberian refugees also brought printing to North Africa. Hebrew books were printed in Fez with Lisbon type, 1516–22.

Northern Europe

Hebrew printing in northern Europe began in Prague in 1512 with a group of printers who were later joined by Gershom b. Solomon Kohen, founder of a long and famous line of printers (the "Gersonides"; see *Kohen family ). He used German square and a new cursive rabbinic type and many ornaments: angels, birds, lions, municipal coats of arms, and outspread hands, the priestly symbol of the family. To this group also belonged Ḥayyim *Shaḥor , who left Prague in 1526 to print at Oels (1530), Augsburg (1533–44), Ichenhausen, and Heddernheim (1546). Apart from continuing in the Prague style of type and decoration, Shahor also used the smaller Italian type. In Poland, krakow and Lublin became important centers of Hebrew printing.

Hebrew Printing by and for Non-Jews

This was a special feature of the first half of the 16th century though it continued long afterward. The age was that of the Reformation and humanism, when enlightened Christian scholars became interested in the Hebrew Bible, its language, and grammar. This demand was filled by such men as Stephanus in Paris (1508–?), who used his own rabbinic and square types which bore a resemblance to the Spanish ones. Only after 1542 did he go over to the Italian type. In Basle Hebrew printing began in 1516 – and continued through the century; here the German square type, but somewhat slanting, was used. Psalms, Hebrew grammars, and some Christian liturgical pieces in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek were printed in Lyons from 1520 by Gryphius, who utilized the same type. German cities in which Hebrew printing took place were Tuebingen (1511), Augsburg (1514), Cologne (1518), Wittenberg (1521), Leipzig (1533), Solingen (1538), and Mainz (1542). A special position was occupied by the Hebrew press, set up in 1540 by the Christian Hebraist Paulus *Fagius in conjunction with Elijah *Levita at Isny, Wuerttemberg, and later at Konstanz on the German-Swiss border, where some books were printed in separate editions for Jews and Christians (e.g., Levita's Tishbi of 1541–42). They used the German type for their meticulous productions.


The single most influential event in the history of Hebrew printing in this period was the papal prohibition and subsequent burning of the Talmud in 1553. The virtual monopoly of Venice on Talmud printing came to an end, resulting in complete or partial Talmud editions in Lublin (1559), Salonika (1563), and Basle (1578). In krakow and Constantinople, too, single tractates were printed at this time. In Italy itself two different periods are distinguishable:

(1) the decentralization of Hebrew printing over many small presses in different places during 1550–68;

(2) the reemergence of Venice as the center of Hebrew printing and the predominance of certain presses in the town from 1569 onward.

Ferrara, Sabbioneta, Mantua, Cremona, and Riva di Trento

In 1551 Samuel Ẓarefati, who had worked as a Hebrew printer in Rome, set up a press at Ferrara, which was taken over two years later by the Marrano Abraham *Usque . Simultaneously, Tobias *Foa established a Hebrew press at Sabbioneta, near Mantua, with Joseph Shalit of Padua, Jacob b. Naphtali, and later Cornelio *Adelkind (1553–55) as printers. The last-mentioned printed the last Talmud tractate (Kiddushin) before the prohibition, as well as an exemplary edition of Alfasi, the study of which was now substituted for that of the Talmud. In Sabbioneta, too, Salonika's influence was paramount, and the two types were so similar as to lead to confusion. The very small type used found its way to Mantua and later to Venice (De Gara, 1572; Bragadini, 1616). Sabbioneta productions are more lavishly decorated than those of Ferrara. Joseph Shalit and Jacob b. Naphtali continued printing at Mantua from 1556 at Rufinelli's, 1557–63. After a rather quiescent period (1563–90), of which only Azariah dei Rossi's Me'or Einayim of 1574 was noteworthy, more active printing was resumed at the press of Tomaso Ruffinelli. A new one was set up in 1612 by Eliezer d'Italia where besides smaller liturgical items such larger works as Abraham Portaleone's Shiltei ha-Gibborim appeared. In 1622 the Perugia family took over this press which remained active for another 50 years. Mantua productions show little originality, in their decorations. Jacob ha-Kohen first introduced a title page with a decorative border and the outspread hands of the priesthood. When he entered into partnership with Meir Sofer, the typical Mantua title portal with winding pillars made its appearance. They also used the various vignettes of Bragadini and De Farri and those of Sabbioneta. The Mantua illustrated Haggadot with the big German type have become famous. In Cremona Vincenzo Conti printed, between 1556 and 1566, some 40 books, of which the most important was the Zohar of 1559. His assistants were Samuel Boehm, Zanvil Pescarol and Vittorio Eliano. From 1558 works display the cum licencia of the Inquisition. Conti extended his activities to Sabbioneta, where Israel Zifroni printed several books for him in 1567. The last book printed in Cremona was Yosef Lekaḥ by Eliezer Ashkenazi, issued by Solomon Bueno at Draconi's in 1576. Riva di Trento received its Hebrew press in 1558 when the physician Jacob Marcaria obtained a license from Cardinal Madruzzi. With the help of R. Joseph *Ottolenghi he first issued a reasonably priced edition of Alfasi for Ottolenghi's yeshivah students. This was followed by some philosophical and rabbinic works. The last of these, Me'ir Iyyov by Meir Arama, of 1562, had to be completed by Cavalli in Venice in 1566. Marcaria used mainly square types, among them a small one. His decorations are similar to those of Mantua in their title portals and decorated initials. Books of 1562 have their own vignette, later copied in krakow.


When in 1563 the printing of Hebrew books in Venice was once more permitted, most of the printers mentioned before moved or moved back there and found employment with the houses of Gryphio (1564–67), Cavalli (1565–67), and Zanetti (1565–67), each using his own printer's mark. At that time mostly Turim with Caro's commentary and his Shulḥan Arukh came off thepresses, taking the place of the prohibited Talmud. Eventually Di Gara and Bragadini emerged as the leading presses. Di Gara, whom some of the best printers had joined, aspired to continue the Bomberg tradition. He succeeded as far as externals were concerned until 1585, when new title pages, borders, and decorated letters gave the productions a different character. In the choice of books Di Gara followed in the footsteps of Bomberg. Di Gara also printed many homiletical works, mostly by Oriental authors, such as Alshekh, Alkabez, and Almosnino. He was assisted in this by Isaac Gershon of Safed, as corrector. Bragadini resumed printing immediately after the repeal of the prohibition, with Meir Parenzo and, after the latter's death, his brother Asher as his managing printers. They published the first (1565) and two further editions of Caro's Shulhan Arukh and a new edition of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah with Caro's commentary Kesef Mishneh (1574–75). From 1579 to 1600 Bragadini and Di Gara worked together. After a period of recession, there was a revival under Giovanni Cajon's management (c. 1615) which produced a new Bible (1617/18) under Leone *Modena 's supervision. From 1625, under Caleoni, several maḥzor editions and other liturgical items were printed, but with the rise of the Amsterdam and German presses, Bragadini's lost its impetus. A short-lived revival took place in 1710–15 as shown by the two-volume folio German maḥzor, printed with new, large types. Another press active at Venice at the time was that of Zanetti, with Isaac *Gershon as supervisor (1593–1608). Outside Venice, apart from Mantua, there was Padua, where Samuel Boehm printed at Lorenzo Pasquato in 1562–67, and Crivellari's press with two works, 1622–23. Some Hebrew and Judeo-German books were issued at Verona by Francesco della Donne (1594–95).

krakow and Lublin

Italian influence made itself felt in krakow when Isaac b. Aaron *Prostitz with the aid of Samuel Boehm set up his press in 1569. They had brought type and decorations with them from Italy and imitated the ornaments of most Italian presses. They printed, largely for local needs, the works of German and Polish authors as well as ethical and liturgical items in Hebrew and Yiddish. From 1595 onward larger works were published. With Isaac b. Aaron's return to Prossnitz ( *Prostejov ) some Hebrew printing, such as an Ein Ya'akov, took place there (1603–05). In Lublin, where Kalonymus Jaffe was active from 1562, the influence of both Prague and Venice were at work. Jaffe printed, besides local authors, the Talmud and Zohar as well as some philosophical (or anti-philosophical) works. In Bistrowicz he prepared in 1592 a Haggadah with Abrabanel's commentary. His printer's mark was the Temple, which was also used in Prague and by Giustiniani.

Prague, Basle, and Hanau

The Kohen family in Prague continued to be active from 1562; in 1605 another printing family, the *Baks , established themselves. They both continued the Prague tradition, Italian influence making itself felt only occasionally. The Prague productions were mainly in the liturgical and ethical field, both in Hebrew and Judeo-German. Israel Zifroni guided the Hebrew press of Frobenius in Basle, which hitherto had worked mainly for the Christian market, in a different direction by printing several rabbinic works, including an edition – censored – of the Talmud (1578–88) and without the "objectionable" trac-tate Avodah Zarah, which was, however, supplemented in krakow (1580). Zifroni-Froben printed a couple of works in Freiburg-im-Breisgau as well (1583–84). The original Basle type had to give way to the Italian one. Another Basle Hebrew press at the time was that of Konrad Waldkirch who, with the assistance of printers from Poland, issued among others a Bible (1618–19) and Joseph Solomon Delmedigo's Ta'alumot Ḥokhmah (1629–31). About this time Hebrew printing took place in Hanau (Hesse), where from 1610 to 1630 several important kabbalistic and Judeo-German works were issued. Both sides of their title pages showed the figures of Moses and Aaron – which set a fashion among later printers – and above was a representation of the Akedah.

Turkey, Egypt, and Palestine

In Constantinople and Salonika in the second half of the 16th century, the *Jabez brothers took the place of the older printers. After a short stay in Adrianople, they arrived in the two cities in 1559 and produced up to 1586 a series of rabbinic, philosophical, anti-Christian, and Karaite works, among them two Talmud editions based on Bomberg's edition with elements from Giustiniani (Salonika, 1563–65; Constantinople, 1580–82). The printers used the Italian type but not the decorations, their only ornament being the trefoil. Between 1578 and 1600 Joseph Nasi's widow Doña Reyna had Hebrew presses at her palace of Belvedere and in other places near Constantinople. Her husband had been a patron of Hebrew printing. About 1590 members of the Italian Bat-Sheva family settled in Salonika and set up a press, using Italian type and decorations. In Cairo a fourth-generation Soncino printed two Hebrew books in 1557 and 1562. The aforementioned Eliezer b. Isaac printed several works in Safed during 1577–87, and the same type was used a generation later to print Josiah Pinto's Kesef Niḥhar in Damascus (1605).



Hebrew printing followed the wanderings of the Jews. (See Map: Hebrew Printing Locations). Fugitives from the Inquisition established the new Portuguese community in Amsterdam at the turn of the 16th century. Ignorant of Hebrew, they recited their prayers in Spanish, and prayer books in that language were printed in Amsterdam by 1604. When Hebrew became more familiar, Venice supplied prayer books in Hebrew, with or without translation. In 1626 *Manasseh Ben Israel set up the first Hebrew press in Amsterdam – a turning point in the history of Hebrew printing. He discarded Italian type, making himself independent of Venice, and had his own type cast which was destined to become dominant all over Europe, including Venice. Amsterdam productions were much sought after as those of Venice had been earlier and they found imitators among Hebrew printers elsewhere. Amsterdam was at the time a great center of general printing, and in format, composition, and decoration Manasseh followed the Dutch style; thus he added the author's portrait to some works. Manasseh's press changed owners several times, though he remained connected with it. Simultaneous with this press another was set up by Daniel de *Fonseca but only two works were issued: Meir Aldabi's Shevilei Emunah and Abraham de Fonseca's Einei Avraham (1627). Manasseh found successors among his fellow Sephardim, among them Joseph *Athias (1658–98) and his son (d. 1709). In externals such as vignettes and diagrams they adopted in some way the style of the famous Dutch printer Elsevier. Athias first used Manasseh's title pages, but later had one designed for himself depicting Joseph (his namesake) meeting his father Jacob. This was later adopted by Jablonski in Berlin. He also added a neatly executed copperplate engraving to some of his productions, which found a number of imitators; one of them (Shenei Luhot ha-Berit, 1698) was by the proselyte Abraham b. Jacob, who illustrated the famous Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695, produced by the German-Jewish printer Kosmann Emmerich. Another member of the Athias family, Abraham b. Raphael Hezekiah, printed some handsomely produced books during 1728–40. To the same Sephardi group belongs David de *Castro Tartas , who learned the craft at Manasseh's press and often used Manasseh's borders. His frontispieces show scenes from the life of David. Of particular interest are his small-format liturgical items of 1666, dated year one of the new Shabbatean era and with an engraving of Shabbetai Ẓevi as king-messiah. Smaller entrepreneurs were Moses b. Abraham Mendes *Coutinho , for whom Solomon *Proops worked for some time; Isaac de Cordova (1668–1710), later in Hamburg; Moses b. Isaac Dias (1706–13); Isaac Templo (1714–34), who printed Nehemiah Ḥayon's Ha-Ẓad Ẓevi (1744) but otherwise mainly liturgical items of the Sephardi rite; and Nethanel Foà (1700–15) who displayed as printer's mark the coat of arms of this well-known family. In addition to these printers, who produced mainly for their own community, there were those who endeavored to meet the needs of the German community established in Amsterdam in the course of the 17th century. There was Manuel (Immanuel) Benveniste, whose productions lack the finish of those of Manasseh, though his title page with the initials CVS has been imitated by German, Italian, and even Salonika printers. Benveniste was succeeded by his former employee *Uri Phoebus b. Aaron ha-Levi (1658–89), who worked even more for the German and also for the newly established Polish communities. From Manasseh he borrowed the title border and the vignettes. The frontispieces in his Bibles and prayer books have engravings with motifs borrowed from Prague, Augsburg, and Hanau, showing Moses and Aaron on each side. This engraving has been much copied by German presses. In 1612 he founded a Hebrew press at Zolkiew, thus bringing the Amsterdam type to Poland. Less important Ashkenazi printers in Amsterdam were Samuel b. Moses ha-Levi, who was active from 1650 to 1655, having for assistants Reuben b. Eliakim and Judah b. Mordecai; and Asher Anshel Shohet, who had worked with Uri Phoebus from 1663 to 1665 and printed some liturgical and popular items. The two Ashkenazi dayyanim Joseph Dayyan and Moses Frankfurter printed some Talmud tractates the latter in particular a large, four-volume Bible, Kehillat Moshe (1724–27). Of greater importance was the physician Naphtali Herz of Emden (1721–42, to 1768 with his son-in-law) who printed some fine books. Some Christians too engaged in the Hebrew printing in Amsterdam – employing Polish refugees – such as Kaspar Steen. Albertus Magnus brought out a handsome Seder Berakhot with Spanish translation in 1687; G. Surenhuys printed a famous and impressive edition of the Mishnah with Latin translation and notes (1698–1703). In the 18th century the dominant figure in Amsterdam Hebrew printing became Samuel Proops (1702–34). He printed mainly siddurim and mahzorim of the various rites. From 1715 a list of his publications is advertised at the end of every copy. He was also the first to bring out a sales catalog of Hebrew books (Appiryon Shelomo, 1730). The press remained in the family until 1849 and was as important to Amsterdam as Bragadini was to Venice.


The unsettled conditions in Central and Eastern Europe – wars, frequent expulsions, sack, and fire, and, above all, the Chmielnicki pogroms in Poland with thousands of refugees fleeing westward and leaving behind everything including their books and libraries – had a profound influence on Hebrew book production. There was in particular an urgent need for Talmud copies and rabbinic literature in a period of unabated, passionate interest in these disciplines. This need was met by Amsterdam and the many Hebrew presses springing up in Germany. During the 18th century the Talmud was printed ten times, each edition in several thousand copies. Catastrophic events produced a desire among the less learned and the womenfolk for works of solace and edification, which accounts for the great increase in the publication of Yiddish literature. Printing became a profitable business besides being a pious enterprise, and large sums were being invested, loaned, or donated for these diverse reasons. In Central and Eastern Europe, Jews found it difficult to obtain the necessary printing licenses from feudal lords, and therefore had to associate with Christians as their nominal printers. On the other hand, economic considerations such as the needs of local papermills and fiscal expectations led many small princes or authorities to grant licenses, at the same time protecting the new industry and their country's balance of payments by prohibiting the importation of Hebrew books. Large sums were involved: in about 1780 it was calculated that the Jews of Vienna spent 290,000 florins annually on books. Typographically the new Hebrew printers in Germany were at first dependent on Prague whence most of the personnel came. Gradually the influence of Amsterdam made itself felt, even in Prague itself. The German square type was increasingly discarded. The Hebrew presses of Germany consisted of two groups: those with the Prague connection, such as Sulzbach, Wilhermsdorf, and Fuerth; and those originating with the Ashkenazi printers of Amsterdam, such as Dyhernfurth, Dessau, Halle. Apart from Christian presses which issued Hebrew books sporadically only, and small, ephemeral Jewish printers, Germany produced a considerable number of important Hebrew presses. One of the most prominent Jewish agglomerations was the triple community of Altona, Hamburg, and Wands-beck (AHW), which was reflected in printing as well. S. Poppert was active in Hamburg and Altona (1715–36); Ephraim Heckscher and his partner Aaron b. Elijah Kohen (1732–75); Abraham b. Israel of Halle, son of the printer at Offenbach, Homburg and Neuwied (1743–47). In 1745 Jacob *Emden , the great rabbinic scholar and polemicist, set up his own press which printed mainly his own works, such as the three-volume siddur Ammudei Shamayim (1745–48) and his polemics against Jonathan *Eybeschuetz .


In the ancient and influential community of Frankfurt on the Main no Jew could obtain a printing license from the guild-dominated city authorities, but Christians owned Hebrew presses: Johannes West (1677–1707), Blasius Ilsner (1682–?), the Andreas (1707–?), Nikolas Weinmann, and Anton Heinscheit. Of special importance was Johann Koelner (1708–28) from whose printing office came a five-volume Arba'ah Turim with J. Sirkes' commentary (1712–16) and an excellent edition of the Talmud (1720–23) which became the basis for later editions. Aryeh Loeb, son of the Frankfurt rabbi Joseph Samuel of krakow, and later rabbi in Mattersdorf, was responsible for this enterprise. Aryeh Loeb had also prepared the second Amsterdam Talmud of 1714–17, the unacknowledged master copy for the later Berlin-Frankfurt on the Oder edition. The Frankfurt on the Oder Christian presses had issued Hebrew books before the end of the 16th century, but widespread printing began in 1695 with J.C. Beckmann and Michael Gottschalk, whose successors, F. Grillo, his widow, his daughter, and J.T. Elsner continued Hebrew printing until 1818. Gottschalk prepared the first Talmud edition in Germany (1697–99) which Behrend *Lehmann of Halberstadt financed, with 50,000 taler. A second edition, which Lehmann first wanted to divert to the other Frankfurt, was eventually printed (1715–22) in both Frankfurt on the Oder and Berlin. Midrashim (Rabba, Tanḥuma Yalkut) were also issued there. Gottschalk employed setters from Prague and Venice; his type and vignettes were of Amsterdam origin. In Berlin, the court preacher D.E. Jablonski established a Hebrew press with Judah Loeb Neumark as manager. From 1708 to 1717 Baruch Buchbinder of Radow printed, among others, the Ein Ya'akov (1709) and several works of the Shabbatean writer Nehemiah Ḥayon Neumark's son Nathan had his own press from 1719 to 1727 on which he printed some Talmud tractates from 1723. His brother-in-law Aaron b. Moses Rofe was active for three decades from 1733. He printed the Talmud (1734–39) with the backing of Jablonski, whose type was used, and Grillo of Frankfurt on the Oder; it was thus an undertaking of both cities. Aaron's press continued under his grandson Moses and his great-grandson Mordecai Landsberg. There was also Hebrew printing in Dessau (1694– ), Jessnitz (1718– ), and Koethen (1717– ) in the duchy of Anhalt. In Halle, the proselyte Moses b. Abraham of Nikolsburg (Mikulov) and Prague was active from 1709 to 1714, after having worked with Hebrew printers in Amsterdam, Dessau, Berlin, and Frankfurt on the Oder. In Dyhernfurth (Silesia), Shabbetai Bass of Prague, who had learned the trade with Uri Phoebus at Amsterdam, founded a press in 1689; his son Joseph took over in 1712 (till 1739). While his newly cast type and decorations were mostly of Amsterdam origin, Bass's employees came from Poland, among them Ẓevi Hirsch b. Ḥayyim. Neuwied (Rhineland) had Hebrew presses (Grat and J.B. Haupt), run by Israel b. Moses. Another printer there was Benjamin Solomon Kroneburg.


In southern Germany and the environs of Frankfurt in particular, Hebrew printing had already taken place early in the 17th century in Hanau and was resumed from 1709, partly by Christian printers such as H.J. Bashuysen and J.C. Beausang. Among Jewish printers there was Seligman Reis (1710–30), who also had been active in Frankfurt on the Main, Offenbach, and Homburg V.d.H. (1711–12). Aaron Dessau and partners set up a press in Homburg in 1736 (to 1757). In Offenbach, Seligmann Reis and his son Herz printed from 1714 to 1721. Bonaventura de Nannoy worked with the Jewish printer Israel b. Moses, who was also active in Neuwied and Homburg. In 1724 Israel acquired the press and worked it until 1733 and on his return from Neuwied in 1737 finished a Mishnah edition begun there in 1736.


In Sulzbach (Bavaria) an interesting and successful experiment in Christian and Jewish cooperation in the production of Hebrew books began in 1667, when Abraham Lichtenthaler, a Lutheran, set up a Hebrew press. He was assisted by Isaac b. Judah Loeb Yuedels, a Prague-trained printer, who had a license but no capital, and who was soon after in Wilhermsdorf. The patron of the project was Duke Christian August, an enthusiast of theosophy. Most early Sulzbach title pages have no decorations; only later did there appear simple border lines or illustrations engraved or on woodblocks. Some show a serpent winding round a tree (the Tree of Knowledge); others show crabs and fishes, or Moses and David on the right and Aaron and Solomon on the left. Some of these title pages were used in Fuerth and Dyhernfurth as well. The type was at first that of Prague, but for certain works the type of Amsterdam was used. Moses Bloch was succeeded by his widow and sons (1694–99) who printed some tractates as part of a plan to print the entire Talmud. Then Bloch's son-in-law Aaron Frankl took over, his first production being a two-volume folio maḥzor, attractively printed with decorated initials and a convenient arrangement of the prayers. Aaron was followed by his son Meshullam Zalman (1721–64), who printed a Talmud edition, 1755–63. His competitor, Proops of Amsterdam, obtained from the rabbinical assembly at the Four Council meeting at Staro-Konstantinov (1755) an injunction, which was countermanded by the decision of a ten-member rabbinical court presided over by the rabbi of Fuerth, David Stanss. A similar controversy arose in the next century over the Talmud editions of Vilna and Slavuta. Meshullam Zalman's sons and grandsons continued the business into the middle of the 19th century, when it was carried on under the name of S. Arnstein and Sons (1818–51); their publisher's catalogs appeared from 1830. The firm founded by Moses Bloch had been active for 160 years, issuing about 600 works, among them many cheaply printed but popular liturgical items. Another center of Hebrew printing in Bavaria was Wilhermsdorf, where Isaac b. Judah Loeb Yuedels (see before under Sulzbach) set up a press in 1669 with staff recruited from Prague, among them his daughters as setters and a son-in-law as proofreader. Another Prague printer, Israel Meir, set up a press in 1712 but sold it the same year to Hirsch b. Ḥayyim of Fuerth, whose son worked later in Fuerth, printing until 1739. Hirsch cultivated book decorations: his printer's mark was the tree with the serpent and a crab and a lion on each side; the title page showed Moses and Aaron and angels hovering above them and the last page a flower basket as vignette. Nearby Fuerth, a center of talmudic learning, had its first Hebrew presses by 1691. One was established by Solomon Shne'ur and his son Joseph with the help of the krakow printer Moses Menahem Katz, and later continued under another son (Abraham) and a son-in-law Isaac Bing, and their sons or successors to 1730. This press printed some important rabbinic and Yiddish works. The other enterprise was that of Hirsch Frankfurter (till 1701), who had the backing of his brother-in-law, the Court Jew Mordecai Model of Ansbach; the latter had a license to print the Talmud. Another press was founded in Fuerth in 1737 by Ḥayyim b. Ẓevi Hirsch, son of the Dyhernfurth printer (see above), and it continued under him and his widow until 1774.

Italy, Prague, and Poland

In Venice, bereft of its former glory, Bragadini was still dominant at this period with Vendramini (de Zara) as his main competitor (from 1631) until they joined forces. Their activities were soon limited to siddurim and similar items. In Mantua, too, Hebrew printing continued, first under J.S. Perugia and his descendants, and from 1724 under the physician Raphael Ḥayyim d'Italia and his successor Eliezer Solomon d'Italia. From 1718 to 1723 Isaac Jare b. David and Jacob Ḥaver-Tov also printed in Mantua. A new center was to arise in Leghorn, where Abraham Ḥaver-Tov, one of Bragadini's best proofreaders, printed some important works in partnership with Jedidiah Gabbai. They used as printer's mark the three crowns – borrowed from Bragadini – with the addition of the coat of arms of the Medicis. Some Hebrew printing took place at Rossi's press in Verona during 1645–52, with the Amsterdam influence predominating. Such was the case in Venice from 1700 and, in particular, in Leghorn, where Israel da Paz, who had worked with Isaac Templo at Amsterdam, was active from 1740. In Prague Hebrew printing resumed, after an interval of two decades, at Jacob Bak's press. During the 17th century Prague preserved its own style, but in the 18th century the old German square type disappeared from the superscriptions and much was borrowed from Amsterdam. In 1746 the archbishop's press issued the Gospels in Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and Latin for missionary purposes. In krakow Menahem N. Meisels established his press in 1631 and returned to the Prague style which replaced the Italian introduced by Isaac b. Aaron of Prossnitz. Meisel's manager was Judah Kohen of Prague, and there is a great similarity between their productions and those of Prague. Lublin too, where Hebrew printing took place with interruptions until 1683, remained under the Prague influence. Only when Uri Phoebus went to Zolkiew in 1692 did the Amsterdam style find a home in Poland.


Constantinople too experienced an almost complete break in Hebrew printing from 1585 to 1638. In the latter year Solomon Franco set up his press, which his son Abraham continued until 1683 and where several refugees from the Chmielnicki massacres were employed. Jonah b. Jacob of Zalocze in Galicia set up a press in 1710 and printed mostly in the Amsterdam style, but Italian influence was also present. When his press burned down in 1741, the Constantinople rabbi Abraham Rosanes helped him to reestablish himself, and his sons continued to print from 1743. Both Franco and Jonah modified the old decorations in the Oriental style, as can be seen by comparing the Temple as printer's mark used in Venice, Prague, and Lublin with that of Constantinople, e.g., Joshua Benveniste's Sedeh Yehoshu'a of 1749. In Salonika too, after a long interval, Hebrew printing was resumed in 1650 on a modest scale. A revival began in 1709 under Abraham b. David and Yomtov Canpillas, the latter printing alone from 1729 and with partners from 1732. They printed mainly rabbinic novellae, responsa, and homiletics. Salonika preserved in type, decorations, and even paper its own easily recognizable style. Jedidiah Gabbai's Leghorn press was transferred to Smyrna by his son Abraham in 1657. Jonah b. Jacob (see above) also printed there in 1729–41. In Chufut-Kale, Afda and Shabbetai Jeraka with other partners set up the first Karaite press in 1734 (until 1741), working with types similar to that of Constantinople.


Central and Eastern Europe: 1760–1900

From the middle of the 18th century the center of Hebrew printing shifted more and more to Central and Eastern Europe. (See Map: Hebrew Printing Locations). States, large and small, in these regions wanted to prevent the importation of Hebrew books and the resulting drain on their capital resources. In addition, the increasing severity of the church-state censorship – severer than it ever was in other parts of Europe, in a region that had not known such censorship before – made it desirable to them to have Hebrew presses under their immediate supervision. For both these reasons the setting up of local Hebrew presses was encouraged. A more positive cause of the rise of these presses was the efflorescence of Talmud study in the growing number of yeshivot in Lithuania and Poland as well as of Ḥasidism and its literature, creating an ever larger demand for Hebrew books. The beginnings of Haskalah should also be mentioned in this context. This shift to Eastern Europe admittedly meant a lowering of the standards of printing and book production.


The Hapsburg Empire occupied a middle position between East and West, and its capital, Vienna, a leading position in Hebrew printing in this period. Presses established in the last decade of the 18th century by the court printers Joseph Hrazchansky and Anton Schmidt succeeded the great Hebrew printing houses of Venice and Amsterdam. By 1850 they had issued five editions of the Talmud. Schmidt, who acquired a great part of the Bomberg and Proops presses, printed most of the classical texts, including Bibles and prayer books of all the rites. Later in the century and well into the 20th century Joseph Schlesinger was the leading publisher-printer of such liturgical items with translations into the main European languages. In what became Czechoslovakia and what were, up to 1914, provinces of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the old center in Prague, the capital of Bohemia, never regained its former prominence. An attempt at revival by the Bak press from 1762 was stifled by the severity of the censorship. A certain revival took place under Moses *Landau (1820–50), who produced two Talmud editions and a good deal of Enlightenment literature emanating from the Mendelssohn school. In Bruenn (Brno), capital of Moravia, a Hebrew press had been founded in 1754 on the initiative of the Moravian chamber by Joseph Neumann which until 1802 produced mainly liturgical items, works of edification in Yiddish for the local market and those of local authors. Another Bruenn Hebrew printer at the time was Bezalel (Gottlieb) *Jeiteles . In Press-burg (Bratislava), capital of Slovakia, where some Hebrew printing had taken place in 1789–90, Schmidt of Vienna set up a press in 1838 from which important items were issued. Joseph Schlesinger, too, printed there in the 1860s. In the Austrian-dominated parts of Poland (Galicia), krakow retained its importance, with Naphtali Herz Shapiro and his sons active in 1802–22; Karl Budweiser (1863–74), who is found later in Lemberg (Lvov); and, in particular Joseph Fischer (1878–1914). The several small presses of Zolkiew were forced to transfer to Lvov in 1782, which led to the rise of that city as a center of Hebrew printing in the next century, with the presses of Mann (Grossmann-) Rosanes, Letteris, and, above all, Madfes, and some as yet unsurpassed editions of the Shulḥan Arukh were produced there. In Zolkiew itself a new press was founded in 1791 by a certain Meyerhofer, where works of the local rabbi Z.H. Chajes appeared in 1840–50. In Czernowitz Hebrew printing took place from 1819; in 1835 a Talmud edition was issued. In the Romanian capital of Bucharest the Sifra with the commentary by M.L. Malbim, then rabbi at Bucharest, came out in a fine edition.

Poland and Russia

In Russia proper the first Hebrew book is said to have been printed in 1760 in Oleksinets (Y.L. Heller's Berit Melah), where printing continued until 1770. The press of Slavuta (Ukraine), founded in 1792, issued three Talmud editions between 1800 and 1820; and one each (1816–28) in Kopys (Belorussia, founded 1807) and Grodno-Vilna (1835–54). The Shapira family of Slavuta continued in Zhitomir, printing fine editions of both Talmuds and the Zohar. Toward the middle of the 19th century Vilna became a great printing center – the Talmud editions of *Romm , who also issued other standard rabbinic texts, being recognized universally as the best editions. They continued to be reproduced to modern times. Romm's competitors in this field were printers like Samuel *Orgelbrand and Rosenkranz-Schriftsetzer in Warsaw, where the first Hebrew book was issued in 1796, and which eventually became an important center of Hebrew printing. See following table for a list of places in Poland and Russia where Hebrew printing took place in this period:

Printing, Hebrew

Berdichev Ukr. 1807
Boguslav Ukr. 1819
Bratslav Ukr. 1821
Dubno Ukr. 1794
Dubrovo Bel. 1802
Grodno Bel. 1788
Hrubieszow Pol. 1817
Jozefow Pol. 1825
Kopys Bel. 1807
Korets (Korzec) Ukr. 1778
Lutsk Ukr. 1787?
Medzhibozh Ukr. 1817
Mezkorov Ukr. 1789
Minkovtsy Ukr. 1796
Minsk Bel. 1808
Mogilev Bel. 1825
Mogilev-Podolski Ukr. 1809
Nowy Dwor Pol. 1782
Odessa Ukr. 1845
Oleksinets Ukr. 1760
Ostrog Ukr. 1793
Piotrkow Pol. 1876
Polonnoye Ukr. 1791
Poritsk Ukr. 1786
Radziwillow Ukr. 1814
Shklov Bel. 1783
Slavuta Ukr. 1792
Sudikov Ukr. 1817
Ternopol Ukr. 1813
Vilna Lith. 1799
Warsaw Pol. 1796
Zaslavl Ukr. 1807
Zhitomir Ukr. 1804
Ukr. = Ukraine Lith. = Lithuania
Pol. = Poland Bel. = Belorussia

The Russian Karaites too resumed printing in Chufut-Kale, 1804–06, and in Goslov-Yevpatoriya, Crimea, 1833–36, issuing prayer books and works of Karaite literature.


It should not be assumed that in Germany Hebrew presses had ceased working. In Berlin the Orientalische Buchdruckerei was founded in 1760. The apostate Julius Sittenfeld was active in the middle of the 19th century, producing a fine Talmud, 1862–68, for which N.A. Goldberg was responsible. Another Berlin printer from the second half of the century onward was H. Itzkowski. In Koenigsberg, where there had been sporadic printing during the 18th century, Gruebe and Longrien printed some fine rabbinic texts from 1858. To this group belongs Johannisberg, also in East Prussia, in the 1850s; Stettin, from 1859, where parts of the Talmud and a fine Mishnah were printed; Danzig (Mishnah with Tiferet Yisrael commentary, 1843); Hanover, at Telgeners, from 1828; Halberstadt from 1859 (Jeruham Fishel b. Ẓevi Hirsch); Leipzig; Breslau, from 1790; Lyck, east Prussia, where the weekly Ha-Maggid was printed, 1856–91, and the Mekiẓe Nirdamim Society brought out its early editions; Krotoszy, from 1834, with a fine Jerusalem Talmud; and in Posen from 1802. Of special importance is the press founded by Wolf *Heidenheim in Roedelheim, near Frankfurt on the Main, about 1800, where he issued his famous Pentateuch, maḥzor, and other liturgical texts. This tradition was continued by his successor, M. Lehrberger, later in Frankfurt, who printed Seligman Isaac *Baer 's well-known liturgical texts. Karlsruhe had a Hebrew press both in the 18th and the 19th centuries. In France Hebrew presses were established in Metz (c. 1760), Strasbourg (1770), and later in Paris (1806). Here the house of Durlacher has been active from the 19th century. In England, where Hebrew had been printed – in London and Oxford – in earlier centuries, London, as well as Edinburgh in Scotland, had their Hebrew presses in the 19th century. In Italy, Venice continued to decline, with Leghorn becoming from 1740 the center of liturgical work for the Mediterranean area. First Sadun and then Solomon *Belforte were the leading printers in Leghorn. Venice printers branched out to Pisa in 1779, printing for the Oriental market, and in Constantinople (so it was stated) books exclusively printed by Jews were preferred. Reggio Emilia had a small press from 1805 to 1820. Salonika and Smyrna continued in this period to turn out large amounts of rabbinical literature but no copies of the Talmud.


Hebrew printing in the United States at first took the form of Christian printers inserting isolated Hebrew words or phrases into their English publications, for which the type was brought over from England. Thus, in the first book printed in the U.S., an English version of Psalms (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1640), the Hebrew alphabet accompanied Psalm 119 and Hebrew words were used six times in the preface. In the two centuries following, many works containing some Hebrew were printed in Cambridge, Andover, Boston, New Haven, New York, and Philadelphia, comprising mainly Hebrew lexica, grammars, primers, and single books of the Bible. Hebrew was also used in printed rules and regulations of Jewish communities and religious societies, or in special orders of services. From the middle of the 18th century onward complete prayer books (maḥzorim with English translations) began to appear. In the 19th century Hebrew printing of sorts is found also in Baltimore (1843), Charleston, South Carolina (1842), Cincinnati (1824), New Orleans (1850), San Francisco (1850), and Kingston, Jamaica (1842). Jewish printers began to be active from 1825 ( Solomon Henry *Jackson , Henry Frank, both in New York). With rising immigration from Eastern Europe, Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers began to appear from 1874 onward. By 1926 there were Hebrew presses, apart from those in the cities already mentioned, in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Toronto (Canada).


While no new trends developed in Hebrew printing up to World War I and even World War II, the Russian Revolution and the debacle of European Jewry in the Holocaust terminated almost all Hebrew printing in Central and Eastern Europe. With the establishment of the Jewish National Home in Palestine (1918–47) and the State of Israel (1948), Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have become the centers of Hebrew printing and publishing. New York too, as well as other cities in the U.S., produce a good deal of Hebrew, particularly rabbinic literature. England, France, and Switzerland play a minor part. The invention of new processes of photomechanical printing have been applied to a great number of the best editions of the 19th century as well as incunabula and rare early prints to satisfy – if not the bibliophiles – the growing demand for rabbinic and other scholarly literature. On the other hand, the phenomenal growth of modern Hebrew (and Yiddish) literature is reflected in the work of the Hebrew printers and publishers in Israel, some of whom began their activities in Russia, Poland, or Germany before or after 1900. Yiddish literature too was being printed in the U.S. and to a very small extent in Soviet Russia.

See also the individual articles on most of the places where Hebrew printing took place and on the most important printers.

[Encyclopaedia Judaica (Germany)]


Before Statehood


About 120 years after the invention of printing, in 1577, Rabbi Eliezer *Ashkenazi of Lublin attempted to set up a printing press in Safed. The press lasted for only ten years and printed ten books, including Lekaḥ Tov by Rabbi Yom Tov Ẓahalon, considered to be the first book ever printed in Ereẓ Israel and the Near East. Two and a half centuries later, in 1831, a fresh start was made in Safed by Israel *Bak , who had brought with him from Berdichev, Russia, type-founding equipment and two wooden presses. His printing house was destroyed by the earthquake that struck the town in 1837, after he had printed only six books.


Four years later, in 1841, he opened a printing house in Jerusalem. This was the first step toward developing the craft of printing, which later became one of the city's main industries. A second printing house was opened in 1862 and ten years later others were established and employed many yeshivah students who had hitherto lived only on the charity of the ḥalukkah. In 1882 Bak's printing house was liquidated and his equipment was sold, but his name remained a symbol as the pioneer of printing in Ereẓ Israel. The iron printing press presented to him as a gift in 1835 by Sir Moses Montefiore is still on show at the Lewin-Epstein Press at Bat Yam.

For many years Jerusalem continued to be the printing center of Ereẓ Israel. The industry's chief clients were at first the weekly newspapers Ha-Ḥavaẓẓelet and Ha-Levanon and the many religious institutions in the city. Jerusalem printing was distinguished for its own peculiarly decorative style in calendars, greeting cards, and *mizraḥs , which were sent to all parts of the Diaspora. The Printing Workers' Association, established in 1897, was the first trade union in the country.

After World War I Zionist and communal institutions began to give out considerable printing orders, and the first process engraving works were established in Jerusalem to facilitate the printing of Jewish National Fund stamps, pictures, and illustrated publicity material for public bodies. Non-Jewish printing houses were to be found mainly in monasteries; there was one in the Schneller orphanage, which specialized in printing school exercise books. In the 1920s the new town of Tel Aviv began to replace Jerusalem as the printing and publishing center.


The first Jewish printing works in the area was opened in Jaffa in 1906, where most of them were to be found until the 1920s. Sa'adyah Shoshani, nephew of the owner, Aaron Eitan, was a pioneer in the organization of the industry and became president of the Organization of Printing Presses in Israel. Many printing workers arrived from Poland in the 1920s with the Third and Fourth Aliyah. Some of them established the Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir cooperative; others joined the Aḥdut cooperative, which had been set up in Jerusalem in 1909 and subsequently transferred to Tel Aviv. The daily press that grew up in Tel Aviv was an important factor in the industrialization of printing and modern equipment was purchased to meet its needs. When the canning industry started in the 1930s, Eliezer Lewin-Epstein, of the famous Warsaw printing family, set up a tin-can printing enterprise which became the first offset press in the country and was particularly noted for the printing of postage stamps and posters. Other offset presses were soon established and supplied Israel industry with advertising material and printed packing materials.

In the State of Israel

The establishment of the Government Printer – at first in Tel Aviv and soon with a branch in Jerusalem – gave an impetus to the development of printing. It did photogravure work, which had previously to be sent to Britain, and printed postage stamps and banknotes for various African and Asian countries. In 1966 it was transferred to Jerusalem. It is the largest printing establishment in the country, with some 300 workers, and is also a channel for handing out government orders to other printers in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

From the mid-1960s modern machinery for cold type composition, including IBM, Monophoto, and Photon equipment, was installed by several firms, including Isratypeset and the Israel Program for Scientific Translations (IPST; now *Keter ) in Jerusalem, enabling high-quality bookwork to be done for local and foreign publishers. Offset notary presses for printing illustrated weeklies were imported; in 1970 there were over 30 offset presses in Israel that were capable, inter alia, of producing good-quality color work. Printing presses were also opened in Haifa, in many development towns, and in three kibbutzim. There were three Arabic presses in Nazareth and several in Jerusalem.

In 1969 there were some 900 printing and publishing enterprises in Israel, with 9,500 persons employed (about two-thirds of the employees working in Tel Aviv). Exports totaled about $5,000,000 (about half of which went to the U.S.), compared with $2,900,000 in 1966 and $400,000 in 1956. About 80% of the enterprises employed a little more than a quarter of the workers, while two-fifths of the personnel were employed by 3.5% of the enterprises, as shown in Table: Printing and Publishing. By the late 20th century Israel's printing industry met the most rigorous and advanced modern standards, and several publishers specialized in packaging coproductions for publishers overseas. The availability of advanced digital printing processes led to the re-issuing of many rare books, especially in the fields of Judaica and rabbinic studies. In 2004 the industry employed around 7,000 workers.

Printing and Publishing Establishments and Persons Employed in Israel in 1969 Printing and Publishing Establishments and Persons Employed in Israel in 1969

Number of employees Establishments Employed persons
1–10 79.0% 26.4%
11–20 9.5% 11.9%
21–50 8.0% 21.2%
51–100 1.9% 11.5%
Over 100 1.6% 29.0%

The first school of printing was established in 1946 by the *Hadassah Women's Organization in Jerusalem as part of the Brandeis Center. Additional schools were set up in Tel Aviv (the Amal School), Jerusalem (Boys' Town), and Kefar Ḥabad. By the late 1960s these schools had over 300 pupils, and another 600 apprentices in printing houses were taking part-time courses there.

[Gershon Zilberberg]

Women Printers

Jewish women produced Hebrew books from the earliest days of Hebrew printing. In 1477, the colophon of the Hebrew incunabulum Beḥinat Olam, printed in Mantua, declared, "I, Estellina, the wife of my worthy husband Abraham Conat wrote this book Beḥinat Olam with the aid of Jacob Levi of Tarascon." Estellina, who arranged for the printing and was involved in the actual process, used the word "wrote" because there was as yet no Hebrew term for "printing." Printing in general was a cottage industry until the 19th century. Adjacent living and printing areas enabled all family members to help with the multiple tasks involved. Women generally took up the profession when their husbands died.

From Estellina Conat through the 1920s, the names of at least 54 other Jewish women printers appeared in Hebrew books. Some are mentioned specifically by name; others can be identified by lines on title pages which state, as in the case of the *Proops family of Amsterdam, "Printed by the Widow and Orphans of Jacob (or Joseph) Proops." Names of female typesetters survive on random pages of texts or colophons; women typesetters were particularly associated with the Hebrew presses of the towns of Fürth and Wilhemsdorf in Franconia. Countless Jewish women also contributed anonymously to the printing endeavor through the centuries as many young girls learned the skill from their printer-fathers.

External sources provide evidence for women printers whose books have not survived. Inquisition records state that Juan de Lucena, considered the first Hebrew printer in the Iberian peninsula, and four of his daughters were accused of printing Hebrew books in the village of Montalban and in Toledo before 1480. In 1485, one daughter confessed before the Inquisition that she had helped her father print Hebrew books. Almost 50 years later, another was condemned to life imprisonment after a similar confession.

There is little evidence of women involved in Hebrew printing in the Muslim world with the exception of Dona Reyna Mendes (1536–1599), daughter of Dona Gracia *Mendes , and wife of Don Joseph *Naxos. Dona Reyna, when widowed and living in Constantinople, was the first Jewish woman to establish her own independent press. She published at least 15 books, including prayer books and a talmudic tractate. Hers was the only printing press in Constantinople in any language; after her death no Hebrew books were printed again until 1638.

Jewish women printers were prominent in 19th century Lemberg (Lvov). Judith Rosanes, great-granddaughter of the renowned printer *Uri Phoebus, initially printed by herself in Zolkiev, with her husband, David Mann, before his death, and with various cousins who were also printers. In 1782 she moved to Lemberg, established her printing business, and married the rabbi of the city, Hirsch Rosanes. Rosanes printed at least 50 books before her death in 1805, and was the first Jewish woman to print Hebrew books on a commercial basis over an extended period. She was so renowned that when the authorities forbade the publication of ḥasidic books, printers used her name to suggest that their books had been printed much earlier. Rosanes' daughter-in-law, Chave Grossman, and granddaughter Feige also ran a press in Lemberg that printed until at least 1857. Other Lemberg female printers were Chaya Taube, wife of the printer Aharon Madpis, and Tsharni, wife of Ze'ev Wolf Letteris. Most famous in the second half of the 19th century was Pesel Balaban. After her husband's death, she expanded their press, producing high–quality editions of halakhic texts, such as the Shulḥan Arukh.

At the end of the 19th century the most renowned Jewish printing house was that of the Widow and Brothers *Romm in Vilna. The Romm family, which had begun printing in 1799, had its greatest success under the management of Deborah Romm (d. 1903), beginning in 1862. Romm took over the firm when she was widowed at 29 and expanded it with her brothers-in-law; helped first by her father and then by the enterprising literary director Samuel Shraga Feigensohn. She remained the major partner in the firm as it produced thousands of superior editions including the famous edition of the Babylonian Talmud.

[Jennifer Breger (2nd ed.)]


Major bibliographical periodicals: HB (1858–82); ZHB (1896–1921); KS (1924– ); Soncino-Blaetter (1924–30); Journal of Jewish Bibliography (1938–43); JBA (1942– ); Aresheth (1958– ); Shunami, Bibl, 2679–997, 4689–96a; M. Steinschneider and D. Cassel, Juedische Typographie (1851; repr. 938); A. Berliner, Ueberden Einfluss des ersten hebraeischen Buchdrucks auf den Cultus und die Cultur der Juden (1896); D.W. Amram, Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy (1909; repr. 1963); E.N. Adler, Gazetteer of Hebrew Printing (1917); A.S.W. Rosenbach, American Jewish Bibliography (1926); E. Deinard, Kohelet Amerikah (1926); W. Eames, in: Studies in Jewish Bibliography (1929); Ḥ.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri… be-Eiropah ha-Tikhonah (1935); idem, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri… be-Eiropah (1937); idem, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Polanyah (19502); idem Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri ba-Medinot Italyah, Aspamyah-Portugalyah, Togarmah ve-Arẓot ha-Kedem (19562); A. Ya'ari, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Arẓot ha-Mizrah, 2 vols. (1936–40); idem, Meẓkerei Sefer (1958); Y.Z. Cahana, in: Sinai, 16 (1945), 49–61, 139–59; A. Freimann, Gazetteer of Hebrew Printing (1946); A.M. Habermann, Ha-Sefer ha-Ivri be-Hitpattehuto (1968); G. Zilberg, Ha-Ot ha-Mudpeset be-Yisrael (1961). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Steinschneider. "Die judischen Frauen und die judische Literatur: Druckerinnen und Setzerinnen," in: Hebraische Bibliographie, 1 (1858), 66–68 and 2 (1859), 33–35; A.M. Haberman, Jewish Women as Printers, Typesetters, Publishers and Book Patrons (Heb.; 1933); Y. Avraham, "Women in the Holy Endeavor (of Printing)," in: Mehkerei Sefer (Heb., 1958), 256–302; idem, "The Printing House of Rabbanit Judith Rosanes in Lvov," in: Kiryat Sefer, 27 (1940) (Heb.); S. Fraenkel. "Who Was the Falsificator of Judith Rozanis in Lemberg?" Proceedings of the Ninth World Congress of Jewish Studies, D, 1 (1985):175–82 (Heb.); A. Karp. "Let Her Works Praise Her," in: From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress (1991), 167–71; B.S. Hill. "A Catalogue of Hebrew Printers." in: The British Library Journal, 21 (1995), 42, 45; J. Breger, "The Role of Jewish Women in Hebrew Printing," in: Antiquarian Bookman (March 29, 1993), 1320–9.

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