Page 16 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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The Time.
T ime destroys books and diminishes the ir num ­
ber. The earliest products o f Hebrew p rinting, some 200 in n um ­
ber, which were p rin ted up to 1500, are practically all rare . T h e
oldest Hebrew book which bears a date — Rashi’s T o rah com­
mentary (printed in 1475 in Reggio di Calabria) is ex tan t only in a
single copy, and even this is lacking pa rt o f its open ing section.
Most rare are the earliest works, particularly those tha t were
p rinted in Spain and Portugal before the expulsion. T h e period
o f rarities should actually be ex tended to 1550, for in the first ha lf
o f the 16th century as well there appeared books which are today
quite scarce. For example:
Sefer Yossipon
(Constantinople, c.
)\ Avkat Rokhel
(Constantinople, 1516);
tinople, c. 1545), and many o the r works which were p rin ted
during this period in Constantinople, Salonika, Prague, Cracow,
Augsburg and elsewhere.
Not only time but the ravages o f time, and especially expulsions
and persecutions have destroyed books. Due to the expulsions
from Spain and Portugal at the end o f the 15th century many
collections o f Hebrew manuscripts and books were lost. I f the
early printings in all countries are rare , then the books tha t
appeared in Spain and Portugal have almost d isappeared because
o f the expulsions and uprootings. O f these books — some have
survived in few copies; some have come down only as remnan ts,
sometimes in fragm en ted pages; and some have been irre trieva­
bly lost.
During the persecutions o f 1648-49 many communities were
destroyed; large numbers o f Jews were killed and together with
them were destroyed their collections o f books. Some o f the
p rinted items which appeared p rior to and du ring the persecu­
tions are very rare: not only small books like
Tikkun Shetarot
(Cracow, 1644), but also volumes in large format like
Sefer Mac-
cabee Yehudah,
by Yehudah, son o f Avraham, o f Posen (Cracow,
1545-46), have almost completely disappeared.
At the end o f World War I in Russia many books were de ­
stroyed and bu rned du ring the civil war and the Ukrainian po ­
groms. Printed items in Hebrew and Yiddish from this period are
rare. It is noteworthy that both religious books, like prayerbooks
and hasidic items, and secular works, like
by Samuel Novak
(Kiev, 1923), and
Zilzele Shama
(Kharkov, 1923), and
Bein Ha-
(Kharkov, 1919), which were p rin ted in the Soviet Union