Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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F
effer
—H
ebrew
M
iniature
B
ooks
39
small, thick cube of a prayer book which was the constant com­
panion of our grandfathers? These siddurim, as wide and thick
as they were high, were not real miniatures because they exceeded
the dimensions cited earlier. There were, however, many others
which fit into our classification. One was published in Amsterdam
by Naphtali Herz Levi. The date of publication appears at the
bottom of the title page in the pattern of a chronogram,* which
this writer reads as 1739. This tiny siddur, containing 318 leaves
measuring 2^g by
\5/g
inches, is the order of prayers according to
the Sephardic rite and has been in the possession of Rabbi D.A.
Jessurun Cardozo's family since its publication. There is an inter­
esting introduction in Hebrew by Meir Crescas:
I have seen in the city of Amsterdam (may the Lord preserve
it!) a miniature prayer book with tiny letters but without
vowel points. As a result, the young people find it difficult
to read the prayers therein. Realizing their grief, I have
printed this miniature prayer book in a manner hitherto
unparalleled. Although the letters are tiny, they are provided
with attractive new vowel points so that the young may be
trained to read correctly and thus perform their religious
obligations with propriety.
Although this book is diminutive, its print is quite easy on the eyes
and, at least as regards this copy, Meir Crescas’ pious wishes have
been eminently fulfilled.
Many miniature prayer books contained only the afternoon
and evening services for weekdays. Since the morning prayers,
requiring the donning of prayer shawl and phylacteries, were read
either at home or in the synagogue, no problem in carrying was
involved. The other obligatory prayers, however, were frequently
recited in unexpected locations, and a tiny tome which could
be carried inconspicuously was a distinct desideratum. Since the
counting of the Omer is part of the evening prayers, these special­
ized siddurim frequently include the order of counting. One such
prayer book is Seder Maafiv bi-Zemano im Seder Sefirat ha-Omer
printed in Sulzbach in 1759 and measuring 3%6 by 2 inches.
Overtones of the Sabbetaian controversy emerge from a Sefirat
ha-Omer booklet published in Pisa in 1786. This work, measuring
3i/g by 2%6 inches, contains notes from a cabbalistic work, Hemdat
* Many Hebrew books indicate their date of publication by means of an
appropriate Biblical verse, utilizing several letters printed in larger type to
denote the year. Since it is not always possible to ascertain—especially in the
case of a letter like the yod—which are the letters to be considered in adding
up the chronogram, there may be differences of opinion regarding the date of
publication. In this miniature siddur one of the yods appears to be printed in
large type; if this be so, the date is 1739; it may, on the other hand, be read
as 1729.