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Women & Jewish Books: Women Printers

Rachel, daughter of printer Isaac ben Judah Leib Katz, called Jeiteles, was a typesetter. She learned her craft in her father's house and, in 1691, set type for Moses Bloch, the printer in Sulzbach. The colophon of his edition of the Hovot Ha-Levavot (Duties of the Heart) by Bahya ben Joseph ibn Pakuda bears the colophon notation that she was one of two typesetters for the volume.

A contemporary younger colleague was Ella, daughter of the convert Moses the son of Abraham Our Father. Moses, native of Moravia, lived first in Prague, then in Amsterdam, where he converted to Judaism and worked there in Hebrew printing houses. In time he set up his own printing house in Amsterdam, then later in Berlin, Frankfort an der Oder, and Halle. Most of his ten sons and two daughters followed his trade. The elder of his daughters, Ella, set type with her brother for tractates of the great Frankfort an der Oder 1697-1700 edition of the Talmud, and it is so noted at the end of the tractate Nidah. The Library has a fine set of that edition. Ella began her work while yet a child, and a most touching colophon comes at the end of a prayer book published with a Yiddish translation in Dessau in 1696. In Yiddish rhyme, it reads:

The type of the translations I set with my own hand, Ella, daughter of Moses from Holland. My years are no more than nine; of six children I am the only daughter. If you find an error in type, please remember, that it was set by a child.

Shown is the final line of the final page of Hovot ha-Levavot which records:
Done and completed by the typesetter Rachel, daughter of the late Isaac Katz, the printer, of the Gershuni family of Furth.
Bahya ben Joseph ibn Pakuda, Hovot ha-Levavot (Duties of the Heart), Sulzbach, 1691. Hebraic Section.

She was still a child when she was typesetter for the Talmud two years later.

The above were chosen from the two hundred or so women, from the cradle days of the Hebrew book to the present, whose names appear on title pages as publishers or patrons, or in colophons as printers. Books were printed by women, and books were printed for women.

Sources: Abraham J. Karp, From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress, (DC: Library of Congress, 1991).