Page 64 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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54
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
From Shabatai Bass’s bibliographi­
cal book,
Siftei Yeshenim.
Amster­
dam, David de Castro Tartas, 1680
Not one, bu t two Yiddish translations of the Bible made their
appearance within a short time, the first complete Bibles in
Yiddish. Uri Phoebus who “represented” the Ashkenazi group
published a translation by Isaac Blitz in 1678, an undertaking
that was in the works for almost three years. I t was perhaps less
to be expected that the Sephardi printer, Joseph Athias, would
also produce a translation, this one by Joseph Witzenhausen, in
1679. In fact, Witzenhausen had previously worked for Uri
and then went over to Athias. The real competition was not
primarily for the Amsterdam market bu t rather for the Polish
market of Yiddish readers. Indeed, the facts of this complicated
matter, which all bu t financially ruined Uri, are not fully known.
I t is likely that some dishonesty, some politicking, and some
ruthless competitive motivations were involved in Witzenhausen’s
departure from Uri, in his acquiring Athias as a publisher of
his version, and in their displacing Uri Phoebus, who had earlier
won copyright and distribution rights in Poland, by obtaining
even better rights on legal technicality.
If one were seeking one example that might establish the fact
that Amsterdam had an unusual influence on later Hebrew
printing, he would probably settle on the 1695 edition of the
Passover Haggadah published by Asher Anshel and Issachar
Baer. For this Haggadah edition, a convert, Abraham ben Jacob
produced a series of mediocre illustrative engravings. Interestingly
this was the first Haggadah in which copper engravings were
used. T he artist largely copied biblical scenes from a Christian
work (Matthew Merian’s publication
leon es b ib lica e
which
appeared in several editions from 1593 to 1662) and some (e.g.,
the Four Sons and the Seder showing people
stand ing )
were
quite inappropriate. But such was the influence of Amsterdam