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And the Work,

the Work of Heaven,
was Performed on Shabbat

I n the earliest Hebrew books, the invention of printing is referred to as

a holy work, “the work of Heaven.”1 That language is used, for exam-
ple, by R. Gabriel ben Aaron of Strassbourg, the corrector, in the
colophon to the first printed tractate, Berakhot (1483/84). This apprecia-
tion was well justified, for the ability to publish the works of earlier sages
and contemporary authorities helped Judaism survive and flourish. In
the first half of the sixteenth century, many of the classics of Judaism
were printed and reprinted in Italy, to be eventually distributed through-
out Europe, reaching England, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire.
These accomplishments notwithstanding, the holy work, the print-
ing of Hebrew books, became fraught with difficulties in the second half
of the sixteenth century. Most of the problems encountered by Hebrew
printers are well known. These include the burning of the Talmud in
Italy in 1553-54, followed by the censorship and expurgation of Hebrew
books by church authorities, often represented by apostates. Church
approval became required to print, signified by the Con licentia di I
Superiori (published with the permission of the authorities) now found
on title pages. Furthermore, in contrast to the incunabula period and
MARVIN HELLER is the author of books and articles on Hebrew bibliography and
the history of the Hebrew book. His most recent book is Printing the Talmud: A
History of the Individual Treatises Printed from 1700 to 1750 (E. J. Brill, Leiden,
1999), recipient of the 1999 Research and Special Libraries Division Award of the
Association of Jewish Libraries for Bibliography. He is currently completing The
Sixteenth Century Hebrew Book: An Abridged Thesaurus (E. J. Brill, forthcoming).
174 The Torah u-Madda Journal (11/2002-03)
Marvin J. Heller 175

the first decades of the sixteenth century, when Jews owned and operat-
ed their own presses, such proprietorship was afterwards prohibited in
Italy. 2 As a result, Jews found it necessary to bring their books to
Christian printers to be published, or to establish relationships in which
the latter employed Jews and printed Hebrew books. Alternatively, Jews
established business relationships with non-Jewish printers. These rela-
tionships were mutually beneficial, for Jews could thus not only print
their books but also had access to the typographical material of their
non-Jewish business associates, while the latter had entry to the Jewish
book market. This association of Christian printers with Hebrew part-
ners was not uncommon, for “the Hebrew books sector, being unique,
was rather attractive to investors, being more limited and not so wildly
competitive as the Italian book sector.” 3
There was, however, a further and most serious disability in the
regulations affecting Jewish participation in the printing industry: the
prohibition on the employment of Jewish typesetters. Type had to be
set by non-Jews, and the correctors, who were Jewish, would afterwards
review the text. Setting type did not require the presence of the Jewish
corrector, for the non-Jewish typesetter worked from a copy book pre-
pared earlier, in which each page was arranged with the corrected text,
lines, and margins to be used as an example and followed as a guide by
the typesetters.
Optimally, the Jewish corrector would read and correct sheets
before a run began. However, if that was not possible he would read and
correct sheets when the run was underway; that is, if an error was found
while printing, the press would be stopped, the error corrected, and
printing resumed, a process referred to as “stop-press corrections.” This
accounts for many of the textual variations within an edition of a book.
However, when the non-Jewish typesetters would set type and print late
erev Shabbat or on Shabbat, when Jews would not come to the press, the
sheets were set and printed without being read and any errors that
occurred could not be corrected. Once the sheets had been printed,
unless the error(s) was substantial or substantive, and often even then,
the sheets were left uncorrected.4 The review process resumed after
Shabbat with the next sheet to be set and printed. This situation is
recorded in the colophons of a number of Jewish correctors. Indeed,
Abraham Yaari quotes from thirty-two books, sixteen printed from 1559
to 1599, with plaints from correctors, who state that they should not be
held responsible for errors resulting from work done on late erev
Shabbat or on Shabbat.5
176 The Torah u-Madda Journal

One title, not among Yaari’s enumeration, is the Minh.ah Belulah of

Abraham Menah.em ben Jacob ha-Kohen Rappoport (Verona, 1594),
printed at the press of Francesco dalle Donne.6 In the colophon to that
work the editor, a kinsman, R. Abraham ben Yeh.iel Kohen Rappoport,
apologizes for any errors in the book, for “Who can discern mistakes”
(Psalms 19:13). He informs us that not only was he careful but that
Abraham Bat-Sheva (the actual publisher of the Yiddish/Hebrew books
at the Verona press) was diligent in reviewing the typesetting “letter by
letter.” Nevertheless, the work was done by “uncircumcised workers”
(non-Jews), inexperienced in setting Hebrew letters, and it was not pos-
sible to avoid errors. Neither they nor the author, therefore, should be
held responsible for any errors, and he requests that they be judged
favorably. R. Abraham ben Yeh.iel Rappoport’s complaint, and that of
the other correctors as well, that he could not correct the pages set on
the Sabbath, resulted from dalle Donne’s desire to maximize the pro-
ductivity of his non-Jewish workers, who, not constrained by Sabbath
observance, worked on that day.
This article complements Yaari’s findings for the period 1550 to 1599,
addressing a facet of this occurrence not previously remarked upon,
namely, that evidence that work was begun and/or completed on Shabbat
can be determined from the dates on the title pages or in the colophons of
Hebrew books. Two caveats to our thesis that the dates on the title pages
or in the colophons provide proof that work was begun or completed on
Shabbat need be noted. They are the assumption that the non-Jewish
typesetter was aware of the Jewish date, not improbable given their associ-
ation with Jewish workers, the noting of the date on other works, and the
availability of Hebrew calendars (the earliest extant Hebrew wall calendar
was printed by Gershom Soncino, in Barco, Italy in 1497); and secondly,
that the typesetter did not err when taking the letters out of the case, a
possibility, but less likely where two letters only signifying a date are need-
ed, and particularly when the date is Rosh H . odesh.
The common era date can be derived form the Hebrew date by
adding 1240, the year the fifth millennium in the Hebrew calendar
began, to the numerical value of the Hebrew letters. Where a chrono-
gram is employed, a not uncommon practice at the time, the letters to be
used in the calculation are emphasized. It should be noted that because
Rosh ha-Shanah, the beginning of the Jewish year, normally occurs in
September, there can be a three month variance in this calculation.7 The
dates on Hebrew title pages, and in the colophons as well, take one of
several forms. The date may be given in a straightforward manner, such
Marvin J. Heller 177

as s’’ba (354=1594); with a chronogram, as in the case of the Minh.ah

Belulah, dated, “Rejoice ujna (354=1594) with Jerusalem, and be glad
with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who
mourn for her;” (Isaiah 66:10); or in a more detailed manner, providing
the exact date, from which the day of the week can be determined.
For example, Leh.em Yehudah, R. Judah ben Samuel Lerma Sephardi’s
commentary on Pirkei Avot, printed in Sabbioneta by Cornelius Adelkind
at the Press of Tobias Foa, was completed, according to the colophon,
on 27 H.eshvan, “And now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies
around me; therefore I will offer in his tent sacrifices of joy; I will sing, I
will make music to the Lord” (Psalms 27:6), that is, sushk vrnztu = (313)
Tuesday, November 2, 1554.8 There are also instances when the day of
the week is explicitly stated.
In a number of books the date on the title page is preceded by, “work
began on,” and/or the date in the colophon by, “work was completed
on.”9 This is the case in Cremona, where many books printed at the press
of Vincenzo Conti provide both dates. For example, R. Samson ben Isaac
of Chinon’s (c. 1260 c. 1330) Sefer Keritut (1557) on talmudic methodol-
ogy, was begun on, “Monday, in the year, parashat, ‘And Jacob lived cahu
(318=16 Kislev = November 18, 1557) [in the land where his father was a
stranger, in the land of Canaan]’” (Genesis 37:1) and the colophon gives
a completion date of Wednesday, 2 Shevat, 358 (January 1, 1558).10
When a full date is given, even though the day of the week is not
stated, as with Sefer Keritut, it is possible to determine the day on
which work began and/or was completed. A review of a substantial
number of Hebrew books printed from 1550 to 1559 provides several
in which the start or completion date occurs on Shabbat.11 That the
number is so small, six only, can be attributed to the fact that not only
is such detailed information not always provided, but printers who
might otherwise give an exact date would be reluctant to do so when it
would be evident to Sabbath observant customers that work had been
done on the Sabbath.12 I would suggest from this that there is a sub-
stantive difference between the editor’s remarks and the printer’s
omission of the completion date. The editors are defending themselves
from complaints that they are responsible for errors in the text, having
done sloppy or substandard work. The printers, in contrast, non-
Jews—and this is speculative as we are dealing with an omission, indi-
cated by its contrast with other instances when additional detail is
provided—are showing understanding of their Jewish customers’ reli-
gious sensibilities.
178 The Torah u-Madda Journal

Nevertheless, there are instances when such information is given. In

1554-55 the Foa press published R. Isaac ben Jacob Alfasi’s (Rif, 1013-
1103) halakhic compendium, Hilkhot Rav Alfas. The title page informs
that work began on Rosh H.odesh Adar, “And God Almighty h’’sa (314)
give you mercy,” (Genesis 43:14), that is, possibly February 13, 1554,
which is a Saturday. In this instance, however, it is likely that the date is
in error, or, more probable, given that Rosh H.odesh Adar is two days, 30
Shevat and 1 Adar, that the printer is referring to the last day of the pre-
vious month rather than the first day of Adar.13 The printer, Tobias ben
Eliezer Foa, an observant Jew, would not have operated his press on the
Sabbath. His master printer was Cornelius Adelkind, who had first
worked for the famed Bomberg press and afterwards for Marco Antonio
Giustiniani. It is generally accepted today that Adelkind did apostatize,
but the date when he abandoned the faith of his fathers is uncertain. It
is likely, however, that Adelkind’s conversion was later rather than earli-
er, for it is questionable as to whether Foa would have employed an
apostate.14 Adelkind’s status notwithstanding, given the nature of the
Foa press, we must entertain the possibility that work on Hilkhot Rav
Alfas did not begin on the Sabbath, although the clear reference to Rosh
H.odesh makes it difficult to assume a simple typesetting error.15
The next title, however, prevents a clearer case, that is, Z.eidah la-
Derekh, a concise code of law by R. Menah.em ben Aaron ibn Zerah. (c.
1310–1385). The author’s parents and four younger brothers were
among the 6,000 Jews massacred when the populace of Estella, Navarre
rose against the Jewish community. Left for dead, a knight, a friend of his
father, found him, removed him from among the dead, and nursed him
back to health. After he recovered, Menah.em went to Toledo, where he
studied under R. Joshua Ibn Shuaib, R. Judah ben Asher, grandson of the
Rosh, and later under R. Joseph ben al-Aysh. Eight years later a civil war
between two aspirants to the throne left Menah.em impoverished. The
courtier, Don Samuel Abrabanel, interceded on his behalf and Menah.em
was appointed rabbi of Toledo and head of the rabbinical academy.
Menah.em composed Z.eidah la-Derekh for the honor and benefit of
Don Samuel, whom Menah.em praises in the introduction. The attrac-
tive book is directed towards the wealthy, who, because of their respon-
sibilities and lifestyle, including social intercourse with non-Jews, are
not always rigorous in the performance of miz. vot, nor do they have suf-
ficient time to master a detailed code. His code, therefore, is directed
towards the practical. It provides, as its name, Z.eidah la-Derekh “provi-
sion for the way” (Genesis 42:25, 45:21), implies, the traveler’s necessi-
Marvin J. Heller 179

ties, not too burdensome to bear. In addition to its halakhic content,

Z.eidah la-Derekh provides reasons, based on the Rambam, for com-
mandments, philosophical and moral precepts, and medical advice.
The printer, Abraham ibn Usque, had been born Duarte Pinel in
Portugal, but, suspected of Judaizing, fled that land in about 1543 for
Ferrara, where he returned to Judaism. In 1553 Usque took over the
press founded two years earlier by Samuel ibn Askara Z.arefati Pesaro,
issuing about about thirty Hebrew titles before the press closed in 1558.
The title page has Usque’s pressmark, an astrolabe from which an
anchor descends, and below it a banner with, at the bottom, the inscrip-
tion, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope”
(Psalms 130:5). On the sides are the initials AV, for Abraham ibn Usque.
The title page informs that work was completed on 8 Adar, “in the shad-
ow of the Almighty h’’sa” (February 20, 1554) I will take refuge,”
(Psalms 57:2). That day was Shabbat. One additional feature makes this
edition of Z.eidah la-Derekh noteworthy. In the explanation of the
Amidah is a discussion of the twelfth benediction, ve-la-malshinim
(slanderers, informers). This section, comprising almost an entire leaf,
was removed by the censors and the enumeration of the prayers com-
prising the Amidah was correspondingly adjusted in the next edition
(Sabbioneta, 1567). It has not been replaced and does not appear in any
later editions of Z.eidah la-Derekh.
Four years later, in 1558, R. Meir ben Ephraim of Padua and R. Jacob
ben Naphtali ha-Kohen of Gazolo printed, at the Mantua press of
Venturin Ruffinello, Ma‘arekhet ha-Elokut with the commentary Minh.at
Yehudah. Ma‘arekhet ha-Elokut is a kabbalistic work attributed to the
Tosafot R. Perez ben Isaac, accompanied by a detailed commentary enti-
tled Minh.at Yehudah, from R. Judah H . ayyat (c. 1450-c. 1510), together
with an anonymous commentary, and glosses from the editor, R.
Immanuel ben Yekuthiel Benevento. H . ayyat, one of the leading kabbal-
ists of his time, was among the refugees from Spain and Portugal. He
became stranded in Malaga, where neither he nor his fellow passengers
were allowed to disembark because of plague. H . ayyat’s wife died of star-
vation and he was close to death. Finally allowed to sail for North Africa,
H. ayyat was imprisoned there for allegedly disparaging Islam. Ransomed
by Jews, to whom he gave 200 books in return, H . ayyat went to Fez where
a famine compelled him to work at a mill for a piece of bread hardly fit
for a dog. H.ayyat eventually reached Italy, where, at the urging of R.
Joseph Yabez and others, he prepared his commentary, Minh.at Yehudah,
today considered a classic kabbalistic work in its own right.
180 The Torah u-Madda Journal

Ma‘arekhet ha-Elokut is dated, “he shall cry, yes, roar jhrmh

(318=1558)” (Isaiah 42:13). The colophon informs that the holy work
was concluded on Rosh H. odesh Adar II yes, “roar jhrmh” (March 1,
1558), which was Shabbat. Here too, we have the possibility that work
was actually completed the previous day, that is, Friday, 30 Adar I. There
is, however, a greater likelihood that the date refers to Shabbat than in
the previously noted Rosh H.odesh cases in Sabbioneta, for here the pro-
prietor of the press, Venturin Ruffinello, was a non-Jew. That the title
page is not more definitively dated should not cause us to assume,
although that is certainly a possibility, that work began on Shabbat, for
a number of contemporary Mantua imprints also give the year only,
with more specific information in the colophon.16
In the same year R. Abraham Klausner’s (d. 1407/8) Sefer ha-
Minhagim was printed in Riva di Trento. That Tyrolese town, a refuge
for the Hebrew book from 1558 to 1560, represents an unusual episode
in the history of Hebrew printing.17 Riva di Trento is better known for
the Trent Blood Libel of 1475 and the Councils of Trent from 1545 to
1563 which formulated the Church response to the Reformation.
Nevertheless, it was there that Bishop Cristoforo Madruzzo, Cardinal of
Trent, a scholar and supporter of learning, who argued at the Council of
Trent (1562) for leniency and moderation in condemning books,
became the patron and protector of a Hebrew press. That press, with R.
Joseph Ottolenghi, formerly rosh yeshivah at Cremona and now head of
the yeshivah in Riva di Trento, as the publisher and financial backer, and
R. Jacob Marcaria, a physician and talmudist as the printer, issued more
than thirty Hebrew books. Their first title was Hilkhot Rav Alfas, pub-
lished in three folio volumes, the title page of each bearing the
Cardinal’s coat-of-arms, a significant statement of his support and pro-
tection of the press at a time when his church was burning and banning
Hebrew books.
Sefer ha-Minhagim records the customs of the Jews of France and
Germany for the entire year, encompassing benedictions, prayers and
ritual practice. The title page of this small book, it is a sextodecimo
(160) measuring about 15 cm. made up of 43 [1] leaves, is dated Kislev
319. The colophon notes that it was completed on 2 Kislev 319 (Nov-
ember 22, 1558), a Saturday. However, as with the Foa Hilkhot Rav Alfas,
we are again dealing with a press in which the principals were Sabbath
observers. An alternative reading of the date, uhkxf c ouh ouhv, normal in
other circumstances but certainly awkward and even improbable here,
could suggest that the setter meant Monday, Kislev 319, equivalent to
Marvin J. Heller 181

either November 24, December 1, 8, or 15. Perhaps in this instance we

can assume the date is in error, the letter c having been misset by the setter.
We turn next to Venice, the foremost city of the Hebrew book trade
in the sixteenth century. Two titles merit our attention, R. Abraham ben
Gedaliah ibn Asher’s (Aba, 16th century) Or ha-Sekhel, printed by
Giovanni Gryphio in 1567 and R. Samuel ben Moses Kalai’s Mishpetei
Shemu’el, printed by Daniel Zanetti in 1599-1600. Gryphio printed nine
titles only, beginning with a mah. zor according to the rite of Aram
Z. ovah (1560), and including such works as the Tur Y. D. (1564), Tur
O. H. (1566), R. Obadiah Sforno’s Be’ur al ha-Torah and Be’ur Shir ha-
Shirim, and R. Meir ibn Gabbai’s Avodat ha-Kodesh(1567). However,
despite the quality of his work, Gryphio was unable to compete in
Venice’s Hebrew book market, and ceased to print after publishing the
Shulh.an Arukh (1567).
Or ha-Sekhel is a commentary on the Midrash Rabbah on the Torah
and five Megillot, each book with its own title. The title page is enhanced
by the Gryphio pressmark, that is, a griffin holding a stone in its claws,
with the phrase, “Wisdom without good luck accomplishes little,” on the
sides of the pressmark.18 This volume, corrected by R. Isaac ben Joseph
H. azzan and with a preface from R. Samuel Kasani, the only part of Or
ha-Sekhel to have been printed, is on Bereshit Rabbah. Ibn Asher writes
that he called the complete work Or ha-Sekhel (the light of wisdom)
because it certainly lights the eyes of wisdom of one who looks into it.
Each book has an appropriate individual name. This volume is called
“Ma‘adanei Melekh, for the sayings of our sages who are called kings are
dainties for the soul and this book explains them [the sayings] and places
the dainties of the king before all who read them, for, ‘The light of the
eyes rejoices the heart’ (Proverbs 15: 30). I have also chosen this name to
be a remembrance from the verse, ‘Out of Asher his bread shall be fat,
[and he shall yield royal dainties ma‘adanei melekh]’” (Genesis 49:20).
The title page informs that the beginning of the work was 14
Tammuz, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for
joy ubhbrvu (327=July 1, 1567), [all you who are upright in heart]”
(Psalms 32:11). The colophon informs that completion of the work was
on Monday, 15 Kislev, “and your judgments are as the light that goes
forth tmh rut[f] (328=November 27, 1567)” (Hosea 6:5). The day of the
week that work began, not clearly stated as is the date of the week on
which work was completed, was a Saturday. Similarly, the completion
date for Gryphio’s edition of the Shulh.an Arukh is explicitly stated, that
is, “Monday 28 Nissan, 327 (April, 17, 1567).” Perhaps the omission of
182 The Torah u-Madda Journal

the day of the week reflects a sensitivity to Gryphio’s Jewish market, for
in these instances where work on that day of the week would not be
objectionable to their Jewish customers it is spelled out, in contrast to
Shabbat where the specification of the day of the week is omitted.
Mishpetei Shemu’el was printed by Daniel Zanetti, one of several
members of that family who printed Hebrew books in Venice.19 It con-
sists of one hundred thirty four responsa from R. Samuel ben Moses
Kalai (16th century), a student of R. David Ben Hayyim Kohen of Corfu
(Maharadakh, d. 1530) and the son-in-law of R. Benjamin ben
Mattathias of Arta (Binyamin Ze’ev, d. c. 1540), who was later involved
in a serious dispute with David Kohen over the former’s leniencies in
permitting an agunah to remarry. The responsa in Mishpetei Shemu’el
cover the corpus of the Shulh.an Arukh. Kalai discusses contemporary
issues and informs us as to the difficulties encountered by and punish-
ments suffered by Jews at the hands of the Turks for aiding the local
inhabitants in Corfu to resist the Ottoman siege of that island. He
addresses such questions as the status of the wife of a kohen taken cap-
tive by the Turks about whom it is testified that at no time was she
secluded with her captors; a nursing woman whose husband aposta-
tized; and the responsibility of one community for another.
The title page states that work began on Mishpetei Shemu’el on Rosh
H. odesh Nissan, “they shall obtain joy and gladness vjnau (March 27,
1599), [and sorrow and sighing shall flee away]” (Isaiah 35:10). Work
was completed according to the colophon on, “‘In you lc shall Israel
bless’ (Genesis 48:20) for counting, in the year, ‘[Neither shall your
name any more be called Abram], but your name lna shall be
Abraham’” (Genesis 17:5), that is 7 Iyyar, 360 (Friday, April 21, 1600),
which is the 22nd lc day of the Omer. In 1599, Rosh H.odesh Nissan, the
date on which work began, was a Saturday. There is no ambiguity here,
for Adar, the preceeding month, has 29 days only, so that Rosh H.odesh is
one day, and that, in this instance, is a Saturday.
The above sample is certainly small, further reduced by two works
with dates that seem questionable, the 1554 Sabbioneta edition of
Hilkhot Rav Alfas and the Riva di Trento Sefer ha-Minhagim. Neverthe-
less, the remaining titles, and likely there are a few more, by themselves
statistically of little consequence, are consistent with what we already
knew from the editors’ remarks in the colophons. Certainly, if work
could proceed on Shabbat when Jewish editors were absent, there is no
reason that the “holy work” could not just as well commence and con-
clude on that day as well. Printers issuing books for a Jewish market
Marvin J. Heller 183

who were sensitive to their customers’ feelings would have no need to

publicize that work was done on the Sabbath. These few entries, then,
are careless mistakes. Perhaps we can reapply the words of the Psalmist,
noted above in conjunction with the Minh.ah Belulah, to the dating of
these books by the setters: “Who can discern mistakes” (Psalms 19:13).

1. David Amram, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy (Philadelphia, 1909,
reprint London, 1963), p. 10, who observes that Christian printers too
referred to their art as a “holy work.”
2. Incunabula are books printed prior to 1500. This term, used to describe the
first products of the printing press, is derived from the Latin for swaddling
clothes, meaning beginning or origin.
3. Zipora Baruchson, “Money and Culture: Financing Methods in the Hebrew
Printing Shops in Cinquecento, Italy,” La Bibliofilia 92 (1990), 25. Concern-
ing the restrictions on Hebrew workers in Venice see Benjamin Ravid, “The
Prohibition against Jewish Printing and Publishing in Venice and the
Difficulties of Leone Modena,” Studies in Medieval Jewish History and
Literature, ed. Isadore Twersky (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1979), 135-53.
4. An interesting example is the title page of Nah.manides’ (Ramban) Sha‘ar ha-
Gemul (Ferrara, 1556) which attributes the work to Maimonides (Rambam).
Quickly corrected, most title pages have the correct attribution. However,
the original sheets with the title page attributing Sha‘ar ha-Gemul to
Rambam were retained and used.
5. Avraham Yaari, “Editor’s Complaints Regarding Printing on the Sabbath by
Non-Jews,” Studies in Hebrew Booklore (Jerusalem: Mosad ha-Rav Kook,
1958), pp. 170-78 [Hebrew]. Also see Saul Kook, Iyyunim u-Meh.karim II
(Jerusalem, 1963), pp. 372-73 [Hebrew], who notes three more cases, among
them Abraham Shalom’s Neveh Shalom (Venice, 1574) and Jacob Luzzatto
of Safed’s Sefer Kavvanot ha-Aggadot called Kaftor va-Ferah. (Basle, 1580);
and Simcha Assaf, “Am ha-Sefer ve-ha-Sefer” in Be-oholei Ya‘akov
(Jerusalem, 1943), pp. 11 n. 101 who brings yet additional works, among
them Elijah de Vidas’ Reshit H. okhmah (Venice, 1579), and Nathan ben
Yeh.iel of Rome’s Arukh (Basle, 1599).
6. On the dalle Donne Hebrew press in Verona see my, “A Little Known
Chapter in Hebrew Printing: Francesco dalle Donne and the Beginning of
Hebrew Printing in Verona in the Sixteenth Century,” The Papers of the
Bibliographical Society of America 94:3 (New York, 2000), 333-46.
7. Concerning the use of chronograms see my “Chronograms on Title Pages in
Selected Eighteenth Century Editions of the Talmud, ” Studies in
Bibliography and Booklore XVIII (Cincinnati, 1993), 3-14.
8. For consistency, all the dates in this article are according to the Gregorian
calendar, adopted in Rome in 1582 in place of the Julian calendar. The Julian
equivalent of this date would be October 23, 1554.
9. Parenthetically, the presence of starting dates on the title pages of Hebrew
184 The Torah u-Madda Journal

books, a not uncommon occurrence, suggests that, in at least these instances,

the front or preliminary matter, if any besides the title page, was either print-
ed prior to the text or taken into consideration before printing began. This is
not consistent with bibliographic understanding of early book practice, as
expressed by Phillip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972,
reprint New Castle, 1995), 52, who writes, “The preliminary leaves or sections
(which were nearly always printed after the text of a book except in reprints
and sometimes even then) . . . .” In fairness, it should be noted that Gaskell
continues, “Fifteenth-century books generally had no preliminaries
. . . ,” that is prior to the adoption of the title page. He is not clear as to where
late sixteenth century practice falls, although presumably it is included in his
comment on the later printing of preliminaries. Book print practice was alike,
whether for Hebrew or non-Hebrew books, and the presses that published
Hebrew books belonged to Italian printers during this period. We might
question than whether the preliminary leaves or sections were in fact “nearly
always printed after the text” during this period as is generally accepted.
10. Meir Benayahu, Hebrew Printing at Cremona: Its History and Bibliography
[Heb.] (Jerusalem, 1971), 34-35.
11. This article—and the reason for the 1550 to 1599 period—is based on my
The Sixteenth Century Hebrew Book: An Abridged Thesaurus (E. J. Brill, forth-
coming), a study of approximately four hundred and fifty Hebrew books,
their authors, printers, and conditions of publication, issued from 1500 to
1599. Not all of those books are within our subject period or were printed in
Italy, so that the sample is actually smaller than that number. It is not unike-
ly that there are other instances, not noted here, of dates on title pages that
fell on Shabbat.
12. Even today Hebrew books printed in religious circles often include a dis-
claimer that even the paper was not made on the Sabbath.
13. A similar situation occurs with Seder Mo‘ed, begun in Sabbioneta, according
to the title page, on Rosh H. odesh Iyyar, “Let the arrogant be ashamed; for
they dealt perversely with me without a cause; but I will meditate jhat
(319=1559) on Your precepts” (Psalms 119:78). The first of Iyyar comes out
on Shabbat, but here too Rosh H.odesh is two days, so that it is more likely
that the reference is to 30 Nissan, a Friday. Seder Mo‘ed was the last work
printed in Sabbioneta, being completed, together with the remaining four
orders of Mishnayot, in Mantua. Concerning this edition of Mo‘ed see Isaiah
Sonne, “When was Tobis Foa’s Press at Sabbioneta Closed,” [Heb.] Kiryat
Sefer VII (Jerusalem, 1930), 275-76.
14. For a summary of the discussion of whether Adelkind did indeed apostatize
and if so when, see my Printing the Talmud: A History of the Earliest Printed
Editions of the Talmud (Brooklyn, 1992), 159-61.
15. To err is certainly human; “Who can discern mistakes” (Psalms 19:13), as
can be seen from the completion date of the first edition of R. Moses ben
Israel Isserles’ (Rema) Torat ha-H.attat. Printed by Isaac ben Aaron Prostitz
in Cracow, that date is given as Thursday, 25 H . eshvan, 330 (November 15,
1569), which, in 1569, was not a Thursday but a Shabbat. Given that not
only Prostitz but his workers were Sabbath observant Jews it is likely that the
correct resolution of the contradictory dates is that the completion date for
Torat ha-H.attat was Thursday, 23 H . eshvan.
Marvin J. Heller 185

16. Examples of Mantua imprints with more general dates on the title page and
specific completion dates are a Roman rite mah.zor for the entire year, on
which work began, according to the title page, “during H.anukkah z’’ha”
(317=1557). The first part of this attractive mah.zor was completed on Rosh
H. odesh Sivan, 320 (Sunday, June 5, 1560); the second part during
H. anukkah, in the year, “when I restore hcuac (320) your captivity,” (Z.epha-
niah 3:20). Tikkunei Zohar was begun “and he sat cahu (318=1558) upon it in
truthfulness” (Isaiah 16:5) and completed, according to the colophon, on
Tuesday, 17 Kislev, “And in mercy a throne was established; and he sat cahu
(November 19, 1557) upon it in truthfulness in the tabernacle of David,
judging, and seeking judgment, and quick to do righteousness.” The begin-
ning of the work on Isaac ben Joseph Karo’s (mid-fifteenth to after 1518)
Toledot Yiz. h.ak is dated with the verse from Isaiah 16:5, and a completion
date of Rosh H. odesh Marh.eshvan y’’ha (319), Thursday, October 23, 1558.
Not all Mantua titles are dated with chronograms. For example, Saadiah
Gaon’s (882-942) Sefer ha-Teh.iyyah is dated, “H.odesh Iyyar, in the year three
hundred sixteen” (April/May, 1556) and Berekhiah ben Natronai ha-
Nakdan’s (12th-13th century) Mishlei Shu’alim is simply dated z’’ha
(317=1557). Additional examples can be given but this seems sufficient.
17. For a history of the Riva di Trento press see Amram, pp. 296-302; Joshua
Bloch, “Hebrew Printing in Riva Di Trento,” in Hebrew Printing and
Bibliography (New York, 1976), pp. 89-110; the introduction to the facsimile
reprint of the 1560 Riva di Trento edition of Benjamin ben Abraham Anav’s
Massa Gei H. izzayon (Jerusalem, 1966), ed. S. U. Nahon, pp. xv-xviii
[Hebrew with English introduction]; and Ch. B. Friedberg, History of
Hebrew Typography in Italy, Spain-Portugal and the Turkey, From its
Beginning and Formation about the Year 1470 [Heb.] (Tel Aviv, 1956), 82-83.
18. Amram (350) suggests that despite the fact that Gryphio had such able work-
ers as Samuel Boehm, Meshullam Kaufman, Solomon Luzatto, and Samuel
Archivolti, he was unable to compete with the larger and more established
presses of di Gara and Bragadine, apropos of the phrase on the sides of his
pressmark, “Wisdom without good luck accomplishes little.”
19. Concerning the Zanetti press and its books see Asufot XII (Jerusalem, 1999),
ed. Meir Benayhu, a special edition devoted to the Zanetti press. Parentheti-
cally, the volume has as an appendix a facsimile of Shelom Ester (Constantinople,
1575-76). A limited edition reprint of Shelom Ester (Queens, 2001) was also
issued by Dr. B. Ogorik.