Page 188 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

Basic HTML Version

1 7 6
tual scope o f the printing art is represented, including early
Hebrew printing from Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Balkans, North
Africa, Palestine and the Orient, and North America, as well as
outstanding examples o f Christian Hebraism, Renaissance
humanism and classical scholarship in western Europe. The col­
lection contains nearly one quarter o f all Hebrew books printed
during the 16th century, especially the productions o f the great
humanist printers Estienne in Paris, Plantin in Antwerp, and
Froben in Basel. The collection is particularly rich in Venetian
Hebrew imprints, among them the first edition o f the Babylonian
Talmud printed by Bomberg (1519-1523), one o f the few com­
plete sets in the world, and the first edition o f the Jerusalem
Talmud (1523). The collection also contains some o f the first edi­
tions o f the legal-ritual codes and hundreds o f volumes o f
responsa; biblical commentaries; philosophical and mystical
works, including the first editions o f the Zohar; historical writ­
ings; philology and medieval Hebrew poetry and belles-lettres;
liturgy and illustrated editions o f the Passover Haggadah; some
celebrated mathematical and scientific works; the first editions o f
the works o f Philo in Greek and o f Spinoza in Latin; Karaitic liter­
ature; texts in a variety o f Jewish languages, from Ladino to
Karaitic Turkic; the oldest printed musical text in the library (in
Inst. Grammaticae
o f 1524, whose Hebrew score reads
from right to left); and a small number o f original Hebrew manu­
scripts and numerous fine facsimile editions. Indeed, i f one work
o f a particular author is not found in the collection, then another
o f his works is; i f not his own work, then one in which his appro­
bation appears, or that o f his teacher or his student.
One o f the several outstanding collections in this field in North
America, the Lowy Collection holds more than thirty volumes o f
Hebrew incunabula, the “cradle-books” o f Hebrew printing pub­
lished before the end o f the 15th century. These include Bibles
and commentaries, legal codes, poetry and liturgy, treatises on
philosophy and medicine, and a tractate o f the Talmud. The
oldest Hebrew book in the collection — one o f the oldest Hebrew
books in existence — is the so-called
editio princeps
o f Maimonides’
Mishneh Torah,
published ca. 1475 in Rome, assumably the first
city o f Hebrew printing in the world. The collection also contains