Page 122 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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110
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
E A R L Y TYPEFACES
Bu t a sho r t excu rsion in to the h istory o f H ebrew p r in t in g in the
f if teen th cen tu ry , be fo re th e re was any p r in te d Y iddish ,
can
be
revealing . O f ten the “obvious” is no t obvious un til som eone has
an in s ig h t a n d m akes th e d em o n s t r a t io n , b u t it has by now
become a tru ism th a t the early type des igners im ita ted th e best
local m anu sc r ip t h and s when they m ade type fo r early p r in ts .6
T h e re fo re , a g rea t variety o f type styles, re p re s en t in g various
local hands , can be fou n d in the relatively small n um b e r o f
H ebrew books p r in ted in the f if teen th cen tu ry .7 A f te r fifty years
o r so, the local styles had virtually d isapp ea red . O n e rabb in ic type
family prevailed , basically th a t o f the Soncino p ress8; and , sim i­
larly, the m any va r ian t squa re types coalesced, m o re o r less, in to
one basic face. Pu t an o th e r way, while at first the mode l fo r type
was the local m anusc rip t, be fo re long the p r in te d book vied with
the m anu sc r ip t as a model, and p r in te rs em u la ted each o th e r ,
copying the type faces th a t they perceived to be successful. P r in t ­
ing in Spain and Po rtuga l had ceased with the expu lsions, and , as
the Soncino family secu red its p rom inence in H eb rew p r in ting ,
so the Soncino typefaces became p rom inen t.
A n o th e r much la te r exam p le o f a sim ilar im ita tion may solidify
this pa rad igm . W hen Am s te rdam became th e c en te r o f H eb rew
p r in t in g in the m id-to-late seven teen th cen tu ry , its types and
metal o rn am en ts and even woodcuts were open ly cop ied all the
way to P rague and beyond ; and its in fluence on H eb rew p r in t in g
in E u rop e was eno rm ous .
Back to the f if teen th cen tu ry . No t only was th e re no Y iddish
p r in t in g in the f if teen th cen tu ry , th e re was no H eb rew -charac te r
p r in t in g a t all in the f if teen th cen tu ry in th e G e rm an -speak ing
lands. T h u s , when H ebrew p r in t in g began n o r th o f Italy in the
s ix te en th c e n tu ry , two av enu e s w e re o p e n to th e p r in te r s ,
namely, to design type th a t im ita ted local Ashkenazic H eb rew
6 See, for example, Birnbaum,
Hebrew Scripts,
cols. 270-271; M. Beit Arie,
“Hazika sheben bikure hadefus haivri leven kitve-hayad,”
M aso t ume;hhkarim
besafranut
(Festchrift for Kurt Wormann) (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1976), pp.
27-39.
7 All o f the various fonts o f Reggio di Calabria, Guadalajara, Leiria, and other
less exotic places like Mantua and Naples are to be found in facsimile in Aron
Freimann (ed.),
Thesaurus typograph iae hebraicae saecu li x v
(8 nos., Berlin,
1924-31; reprinted, Jerusalem, 1968).
8 See
Thesaurus
A 32, 2 for one o f many samples there.