Page 11 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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KABAKOF / INTRODUCTION
3
name o f Vilna stands ou t especially. For it was h e re tha t a cen tury
ago th e re was completed the most ambitious T a lm ud p r in ting
project ever unde r taken . T h e task was ca rried ou t by the cele­
b ra ted p r in ting concern o f the Widow and the B ro thers Romm
over a period o f six years, from 1880-1886, and the finished
p roduc t soon supp lan ted previous editions.
T h e man responsible fo r this rem arkab le achievement was
Shmuel Shraga Feigensohn, known also by his pen nam e Shafan
Ha-Sofer. In his afte rwo rd to the
Vilna Shas
he described the p ro ­
digious e ffo r t tha t went into the p repa ra tion and p roduc tion o f
the edition. A prospectus tha t he issued in 1879 o ffe red samples
o f some o f the new commentaries and glosses tha t were to be in­
co rpo ra ted . It was p roposed to begin with 40 such addenda , bu t
by the end o f the project more than 100 were included , the
largest num be r ever ga the red toge the r in one edition. In o rd e r to
compile this material the services o f copyists were marshalled in
o rd e r to make use o f ra re manuscripts in the libraries o f various
centers.
T h e
Vilna Shas
met with an amazing response and some 22,000
persons subscribed to the first volume. Additional subscribers
were a ttrac ted because o f the enthusiasm with which the project
was g reeted by leading rabbis and scholars. Despite various
contingencies, such as the ou tb reak o f fires on two occasions and
the onset o f pogroms in Eastern Europe , the Romm concern p e r ­
sisted in its efforts. More than 100 p rin te rs and craftsmen were
involved in the typesetting by hand and the p rep a ra tion o f the
plates, and 14 scholarly p roo freade rs stood ready to catch the
slightest m isprint.
One stands in awe o f the amazing ability o f the ded ica ted work­
ers to adh e re to the ir time schedule and to p roduce a
Shas
that
superceded all previous editions in beauty and completeness.
A fter the first edition was exhausted the Romm concern con tin­
ued to make new printings annually. In later years the
Vilna Shas
was rep roduced photographically in various parts o f the world,
including America, Palestine, Shanghai and Germany.
T h e dramatic story o f the rep r in ting o f the T a lm ud in
Germany was recently recoun ted by Gerd Korman in his article,
“Survivor’s T a lm ud and the U.S. Army ,” in the quarte rly jo u rn a l
AmericanJewish History
(vol. 73, no. 3, March 1984). T h e project,
which had the suppo r t o f the U.S. Army o f Occupation and was
aided by the Jo in t Distribution Committee, was successfully