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The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy

Edited by Joseph R. Hacker and Adam Shear

Publication Year: 2011

The rise of printing had major effects on culture and society in the early modern period, and the presence of this new technology—and the relatively rapid embrace of it among early modern Jews—certainly had an effect on many aspects of Jewish culture. One major change that print seems to have brought to the Jewish communities of Christian Europe, particularly in Italy, was greater interaction between Jews and Christians in the production and dissemination of books.

Starting in the early sixteenth century, the locus of production for Jewish books in many places in Italy was in Christian-owned print shops, with Jews and Christians collaborating on the editorial and technical processes of book production. As this Jewish-Christian collaboration often took place under conditions of control by Christians (for example, the involvement of Christian typesetters and printers, expurgation and censorship of Hebrew texts, and state control of Hebrew printing), its study opens up an important set of questions about the role that Christians played in shaping Jewish culture.

Presenting new research by an international group of scholars, this book represents a step toward a fuller understanding of Jewish book history. Individual essays focus on a range of issues related to the production and dissemination of Hebrew books as well as their audiences. Topics include the activities of scribes and printers, the creation of new types of literature and the transformation of canonical works in the era of print, the external and internal censorship of Hebrew books, and the reading interests of Jews. An introduction summarizes the state of scholarship in the field and offers an overview of the transition from manuscript to print in this period.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: Book History and the Hebrew Book in Italy

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pp. 1-16

At the end of the sixteenth century, looking back not only at Jewish history but also at the ‘‘history of the world,’’ the Prague Jewish chronicler and scientist David Gans viewed the invention of printing in moveable type as the greatest of God’s gifts...

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Chapter 1. Can Colophons Be Trusted? Insights from Decorated Hebrew Manuscripts Produced for Women in Renaissance Italy

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pp. 17-25

The scribe Moses ben Hayyim Akris completed a Hebrew prayer book, which he referred to as a siddur and a mahzor, on 26 Adar I [5]280 ( =15 February 1520), by which time apparently some, though clearly not most, of the work had been illuminated.1 The codex subsequently was inherited by Jacob Norsa, who commissioned additional decoration...

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Chapter 2. Marchion in Hebrew Manuscripts: State Censorship in Florence, 1472

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pp. 26-55

The signature of Marchion in small Latin humanistic characters appears in seventeen Hebrew manuscripts, all of which are related in one way or another to Florence.1 This peculiar signature is in fact a censor mark interspersed within the folios of..

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Chapter 3. Daniel van Bombergen, a Bookman of Two Worlds

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pp. 56-75

We would like to dispel part of the commonly held but unsubstantiated romantic notion, common at least in Jewish studies, that views Daniel van Bombergen as a benevolent, good-hearted Christian1 willing to squander his family’s inheritance in order to print ‘‘our’’ books.2....

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Chapter 4. The Rabbinic Bible in Its Sixteenth-Century Context

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pp. 76-108

Since the publication some thirty years ago of Elizabeth Eisenstein’s The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, the revolutionary impact of printing on Western culture has been the subject of scholarly debate.1 These debates have centered on the very nature of the transition from manuscript to print: over the question as to whether...

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Chapter 5. Sixteenth-Century Jewish Internal Censorship of Hebrew Books

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pp. 109-120

While Christian censorship of Hebrew books in the sixteenth century has received considerable scholarly attention, both after the opening of the Vatican archives in 18811 and, more recently, the opening of the Archive of the Congregation of the Doctrine...

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Chapter 6. Robert Bellarmine Reads Rashi: Rabbinic Bible Commentaries and the Burning of the Talmud

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pp. 121-132

In the historiography of the turbulent relationship between Christians and Jews in the early modern period, the fate of the Talmud features prominently. Historians are inclined to argue that the burning of the Talmud on the Campo de’ Fiori on 9 September 1553 was welcomed by all representatives of the Roman Church...

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Chapter 7. Dangerous Readings in Early Modern Modena: Negotiating Jewish Culture in an Italian Key

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pp. 133-155

In the fall of 1614, two Jews, the banker Raffaele Modena of Sassuolo and the physician and philosopher Abraham ben Hananiah Yagel de Gallichi (1553–ca. 1623), paraded with the state troops in the streets of Modena, the capital city of the Este Duchy. This procession emphasized the authority of the Duke Cesare (1562–1628)....

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Chapter 8. The Printing of Devotion in Seventeenth-Century Italy: Prayer Books Printed for the Shomrim la-Boker Confraternities

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pp. 156-170

Starting in the second half of the sixteenth century and with a dramatic increase during the seventeenth, Jewish devotional confraternities came to play a major role in the religious, social, and cultural life of Italian communities...

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Chapter 9. Hebrew Printing in Eighteenth-Century Livorno: From Government Control to a Free Market

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pp. 171-195

In the past twenty years, scholars have widely explored the importance of the printing business in the port of Livorno in connection to the history of the Italian Enlightenment and to the circulation of reformist ideas. Between the middle of the 1740s and the rise of Napoleon,...


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pp. 197-307

List of Contributors

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pp. 309-312


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pp. 313-323


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pp. 325-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780812205091
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812243529

Page Count: 329
Publication Year: 2011