Page 10 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
comp leted on 20 T eb e t in the year
gemara,
whose letters add up to
the num erical equivalent o f the Hebrew da te (5)244, co r re sp o n d ­
ing to 1584. He also composed an acrostic poem in h o n o r o f the
volume which spelled ou t the letters o f his name. His ed ition es­
tablished the fo rm a t o f the talmudic page and in co rpo ra ted in
add ition special punc tua tion marks to aid in read ing the text. He
went on to p r in t at Soncino the first ed ition o f the en tire vowelled
Bible and the first Mahzor.
T h a t the p ioneer ing con tribu tions o f the Soncino press have
called fo r th w idespread adm ira tion is ev iden t from a dispatch
from Italy to the Israeli new spaper
Maariv
(August 19, 1983).
T h e d ispatch indicated tha t it was p lanned to establish a p r in t ing
museum in the original hom e o f the Soncino p rin te rs . I t also re ­
po r ted tha t a TV docum en ta ry on the Soncino family had been
shown u n d e r the title, “Soncino — H a rb inge r o f F reedom in the
Early Days o f P rin ting .” An exhibit o f Soncino p rin ts was also
m oun ted in Milano.
As additional Hebrew presses sp rang up, various cities vied for
the hono r o f publishing editions o f the T a lm ud . T h e sponsors o f
many o f these editions were able to incorporate commentaries
from the rich halakhic exegesis that had developed. A full record
and description o f these editions were o ffered by Raphael Na than
Nata Rabbinovicz in his Hebrew work,
Essay on the Printing of the
Talmud,
edited by Abraham M. H aberm ann (Jerusalem, 1952).
II
Ta lm ud ic scholars were considered to be the elite o f Jew ish life
in Eastern E u rope and the prestige o f communities was o ften
m easu red by the num bers o f advanced s tuden ts in th e ir midst.
Jewish
batei-midrash
(houses o f study) competed with each o th e r
in housing collections o f sacred texts. According to an account
adduced by Simha Assaf in one o f his studies, the Jewish
communities o f Slutsk and Brisk were once embro iled in a con ­
troversy over w he the r Slutsk should receive g re a te r re p re sen ta ­
tion in the councils o f Jewish self-governm en t in L ithuania.
When the elders o f Slutsk were able to d em on s tra te th a t the ir
houses o f study con tained m ore sets o f the T a lm ud than even
those o f Brisk th e re was no longer any question as to the status o f
th e ir community.
O f all the cities connected with the p r in ting o f the T a lm ud , the