Page 16 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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Spain, and Italy in the ensuing 300 years. During the sixteenth
century, Pope Pius IV (1559-1565) and Pope Gregory X III (1572׳■
1585) were prepared to allow the printing and use of the Talmud
under certain conditions: the book should be titled
Shishah Sedarim,
Limmud ,
and any expression or passage which
the censors deemed insulting toward Christianity should be elimi-
nated. Even with these caveats, the Talmud was not printed in
Italy; it was placed on the
Index librorum prohibitorum
in 1559.
At the same time the Church authorities ordered that a committee
of rabbis be established to supervise the publication of all Hebrew
books. The committee was responsible to the secular and ecclesias-
tic non-Jewish authorities for any printed book, insuring that the
Hebrew books would not contain anything derogatory to Chris-
tianity. Thus the Church became the initiator of Jewish self-
censorship, coerced by the pressure of external censorship.
It became essential for the Jewish communities to establish their
own rules in order to avoid the punishing collisions with the
Church. On June 21, 1554, representatives of the Italian Jewish
communities met in Ferrara and formulated these regulations:
Three rabbis and a
must pass on a book before it could be
printed; having obtained this permission, the author could apply
to the governmental authorities for authorization to go to press.
Permits given by the Jewish communal representatives were recog-
nized by the government as official documents, and were read
publicly in the synagogues of the city. The rabbis in charge of the
inspection of books were empowered to punish offenders through
excommunication. The Ferrara decision was once more approved
in Padua, in 1585. It is possible that these actions spurred the
Council of the Four Lands (Vaad Arba Aratzot) in Poland to take
similar steps in 1594, as well as in 1603, the Jewish community of
Frankfort and the Sephardic community of Amsterdam in 1639.
The Index Expurgatorius
Index Expurgatorius
of Hebrew Books
(Sepher ha-Zikkuk)
was established by the Church in 1595. Official revisers, sometimes
apostate Jews, were appointed to censor Hebrew books according
to the regulations in
De correctione librorum
(“Regarding the
correction of books”) . The
Sepher ha-Zikkuk,
published in 1903
by N. Porges in the
Festschrift zum ziebzigsten Geburtstage A.
contains a list of 420 Hebrew books censored by official
revisers. The first book listed is
Seror Hamor
by Rabbi Abraham
Saba (Constantinople: 1514), and the last is
Sefer Selihot
Ke-Minhag Ashkenazim
(Venice, n.d.) .4 The clumsy work of
*Popper, William,
The Censorship of Hebrew Books: second edition
York, 1969), which has my Introduction, "Censorship and Jewish Writers,” p. x.