In the Middle Ages, the Jewish communities of the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe developed independent prayer usages that differed from one another both in terms of their general contours and the specific formulations of many of the statutory prayers. Even within Ashkenazic Jewry, distinctions existed separating what eventually came to be referred to as minhag Ashkenaz, the Western Ashkenazic rite followed in Western Germany (particularly in the Rhineland) and parts of Northern Italy, from minhag Polin, the Eastern Ashkenazic or Polish rite followed in Central/Eastern Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Poland, and points further east. The present lot is a hitherto-unknown complete copy of an early prayer book-cum-Haggadah, both according to the Western Ashkenazic rite, published at the press of Daniel Bomberg in Venice in 1519-1520. In order to appreciate the enormous significance of this unicum, a few words about printed Jewish liturgical history are in order.
Liturgical and other works utilized on a regular basis are, by their very nature, particularly susceptible to the ravages of time and the wear of extensive use. Thus, siddurim and mahzorim from the early period of Hebrew printing have generally survived in only a small number of exemplars, if not fragments. Our siddur, by contrast, had the paradoxically good fortune of being owned for much of its history by non-Jews – including an extended stay in the library of a Catholic monastery – and thereby evaded the fate of many of its liturgical cousins. In fact, extensive searches through library catalogs reveal that this prayer book is the earliest-dated, extant, complete copy of the printed daily, Sabbath, and festival liturgy, plus Haggadah for Passover, according to the Western Ashkenazic rite! Moreover, none of the scholars who has studied the Bomberg press in Venice was aware of this siddur’s existence, suggesting that it may be the sole exemplar (complete or incomplete) of this prayer book to have survived to the present day! (The Latin note on the title page referencing the second edition of Johannes Buxtorf’s Bibliotheca Rabbinica [Basel, 1640], p. 427, merely points to a general bibliographical entry on siddurim, with only two specific editions, neither of which is ours, mentioned at the end.)
In addition to the book’s early date, extremely-well preserved condition, and uniqueness as the sole surviving exemplar of an entire Bomberg print run, our siddur also boasts several other fascinating features. First and foremost is its Haggadah. The fact that the Haggadah is not mentioned on the front title page, has its own title page and printer’s signatures, and finishes at the end of a quire suggests that it may have been marketed by Bomberg as a standalone publication that could either be included in the siddur (between the main text and the piyyutim [liturgical poems]) or sold separately. Indeed, while Bomberg is not otherwise known to have published a freestanding edition of the Haggadah, he was operating at a time when such books were beginning to appear at other presses. It is tempting, then, to speculate that Bomberg the businessman might have made a foray into this growing market at this point in his career.
Other noteworthy aspects of this siddur relate to the actual text. Perhaps most prominently, the book displays significant economy when it comes to printing rubrics and repeating prayers from one service to the next. In this way, our volume is certainly a product of its historical period, in which printed liturgies, like their earlier manuscript cousins, tended to be as concise as possible. Thus, for example, the full text of the Kaddish is completely absent from the siddur (only the beginning of the special graveside Kaddish is printed), presumably because most people knew it by heart and/or approached the cantor’s lectern to recite it.
Another indication of the siddur’s historical setting can be discerned in some of the nuances of the prayers’ wording. For instance, while the “heretics’ blessing” in the weekday Amidah begins Ve-la-malshinim (for the informers) and not Ve-la-meshummadim (for the apostates) as in earlier versions, and while Aleinu omits the line she-hem mishtahavvim la-hevel va-rik (for they prostrate themselves to vanity and emptiness), at least two prayers which would be censored in later siddurim appear here uncensored: one of the blessings recited after the haftarah preserves the text la-aluvat nefesh tinkom nakam bi-meherah be-yameinu (avenge the vengeance of the downtrodden [nation] quickly, in our days), and the Av ha-rahamim prayer includes the line be-yameinu le-einenu nikmato ve-nikmat torato ve-nikmat dam avadav ha-shafukh ([may He avenge], in our days and in front of our eyes, His vengeance, the vengeance of His Torah, and the vengeance of His servants’ spilled blood). Similarly, we should not be surprised to find that later additions to the prayers, like the entire Kabbalat shabbat service and certain embellishments to the blessing of the new moon, are absent from our edition. Likewise, the change from ve-yismehu bekha yisra’el ohavei shemekh (the People of Israel, who love Your Name, shall rejoice in You) to ve-yenahu bah yisra’el mekaddeshei shemekha (the People of Israel, who sanctify Your Name, shall rest on it) in the Amidah for the Sabbath had not yet occurred, and the Passover Haggadah does not include Hasal seder pesah, Ehad mi yodea, and Had gadya among the songs sung at the end (although these had already been incorporated into other Ashkenazic Haggadot by this point in history). More globally, the vocalization of many of the prayers reflects a strong tendency toward mishnaic, rather than biblical, Hebrew forms (which were common before the prayers were “corrected” by later grammarians), like plurals ending in nun rather than mem and “feminine” pronominal suffixes like -akh or -ekh instead of -kha or -ekha.
We also find a number of unusual prayer formulations in this unicum not commonly featured in modern Ashkenazic-rite siddurim. Examples include the presence of the blessings magbiah shefalim and somekh nofelim in the birkhot ha-shahar; the blessing li-gemor et ha-hallel (typical for Sephardim but not for Ashkenazim, who usually say li-kero et ha-hallel) recited before commencing hallel; the blessing bore peri ha-gefen (rather than ha-gafen, the vocalization more prevalent among Ashkenazim) recited before drinking wine; the blessing for Sefirat ha-omer, which ends al sefirat ha-omer she-ha-yom la-omer yom ehad (reflecting the halakhic view that the number of days in the Omer must be included in the blessing itself); among others. Perhaps most surprising of all is the quotation of Deut. 6:20 in the mouth of the Haggadah’s wise son. All of today’s Haggadot have the text, “What mean the decrees, laws, and rules that the Lord our God has enjoined upon you?” Our siddur, though, replaces the word for “you” (etkhem) with the word for “us” (otanu) – evidence that that (non-masoretic) version of the biblical text (attested already in the Jerusalem Talmud, Pesahim 70b) was still in circulation at this very late stage!
It was not uncommon for correctors in print shops to slip their own and/or their children’s names into siddurim and mahzorim on which they were working. Interestingly, our prayer book is no exception in this regard. Cornelio Adelkind, a longtime employee of Bomberg’s whose Hebrew name was Israel bar Baruch ha-Levi, managed to insert himself into the special reshut (liturgical prelude) for grooms reproduced in the piyyutim section of the volume. (He did the same thing in an Ashkenazic-rite siddur he himself published in 1549.) Moreover, we see a variation on this practice in the special reshut for the man called up to finish the reading of the Torah on Simhat Torah, where the name Isaac bar Avigdor ha-Levi appears. Isaac, along with his brothers Jacob and Yom Tov, were the sons of Avigdor ha-Levi Katsav of Padua. In 1518, they founded a short-lived Hebrew press in Rome, where they printed three books authored by their relative Elijah Levita (1469-1549). Jacob subsequently moved to Trino, where he published an Ashkenazic-rite siddur in 1525. While the brothers are not known to have been directly associated with the Bomberg press in Venice, it is possible that Isaac sponsored or in some way collaborated on the printing of the present siddur.
Aside from its provenance, age, uniqueness, and contents, though, our prayer book is also beautifully designed. The typefaces are clean and sharp; numerous songs and piyyutim are elegantly laid out; and the stamped binding, featuring animal and floral motifs, as well as the gilt and gauffered paper edges, evince an aura of solemn majesty. The upper panel on both the front and rear boards contains the inscription: o[mn]ia ſi perdas / fama[m] ſervare memento / qua ſemel / amiſſa nul[l]a rem[iſ]ſio erit (“Though you lose every other possession, remember to preserve your good name; once your reputation is lost, you will be as if you did not exist” – Anon.); while the lower panel reads: de profundis / clamavi ad te domine / domine / exaudi vocem meam (“Out of the depths I call You, O Lord; O Lord, listen to my cry” – Ps. 130:1-2).
All of the above factors thus combine to make the present lot an immensely bibliographically significant, liturgically interesting, and aesthetically pleasing milestone in the history of the printed Hebrew book.
f. [1r]: title;
ff. [1v-64r]: prayers for weekdays, Sabbaths, rosh hodesh, Hanukkah, Purim, fast days, and Tish‘ah be-Av;
ff. [64r-71r]: prayers for the three pilgrimage festivals and hallel;
ff. [71v-91r]: tractate Avot;
ff. [91v-128r]: prayers for the High Holidays, Sukkot (the hosha‘not), Hoshana Rabbah, and Simhat Torah;
ff. [128r-153v]: ma‘arivim for the three pilgrimage festivals;
ff. [154r-156r]: tsidduk ha-din and hatavat halom;
f. [156v]: blank.
f. [1r]: title;
ff. [1v-2r]: the search for leaven, followed by the mnemonic for remembering the stages of the Seder;
ff. [2v-5r]: three versions of Kiddush, depending on when during the week Passover falls, followed by u-rehats through yahats and instructions for how to conduct the rest of the Seder;
ff. [5v-13v]: maggid;
ff. [13v-14v]: rahatsah [sic] through berekh [sic] (no text of grace after meals printed);
ff. [14v-20r]: hallel, nirtsah, and Sefirat ha-omer;
f. [20v]: blank.
ff. [1r-34r]: yotserot, ofannim, and zulatot for special Sabbaths (Be-reshit, rosh hodesh, Hanukkah, hafsakot, Nahamu, Teshuvah);
ff. [34r-45v]: yotserot, ofannim, and zulatot recited on the occasion of a circumcision coinciding with the the Sabbath and on the Sabbath before a wedding, followed by a special reshut for the groom before he is called up to the Torah;
ff. [45v-55r]: yotserot, ofannim, and zulatot for the Sabbath falling during the intermediate days of Sukkot and for Simhat Torah, followed by a special reshut for the man called up to finish the reading of the Torah;
f. [55v]: kapparot ritual for the eve of Yom Kippur;
f. [56r]: colophon;
f. [56v]: blank.
Sotheby’s is grateful to Bruce E. Nielsen for providing information that aided in the cataloging of this unicum.
232 folios (5 1/8 x 3 3/4 in.; 130 x 95 mm) (collation: siddur: i-xix8, xx4; Haggadah: i-ii8, iii4; piyyutim: i-vii8) on paper; no foliation; signatures in Hebrew characters in lower left corner of recto of first folio of each bifolium (except in the section of the piyyutim, where only the first leaf of each quire is signed) and in Arabic numerals in upper left corner of recto of first leaf of each quire (except in the section of the piyyutim, where Arabic numerals are entirely lacking); single-column text of eighteen lines per page in the siddur and Haggadah and seventeen lines per page in the piyyutim; text begins on verso of title; quires x and xi of siddur misbound; separate title for Haggadah; text of Haggadah begins on verso of title; section of piyyutim lacks title but features a colophon; liturgy generally vocalized and printed in square font; rubrics unvocalized and generally printed in Rashi font; catchwords on verso of final leaf of each quire (except the last quire of each section); Tetragrammaton represented via three yods. Enlarged incipits; justification of lines via use of anticipatory letters; ornamental layout of certain parts of the liturgy (Ps. 136, The Song of the Sea, sections of hallel, the “Avinu malkeinu” prayer, the “Al het” confessional, hosha‘not, and a number of the songs incorporated into the Haggadah); manuscript notations in Latin characters on f. [24r] (“ordre” [order]) and f. [89r] (crossed out) of the siddur, as well as on front flyleaf recto and verso (“orationes ſacr[a]e [et] ſolle[mnita]tes in ſinagogis iuda[e]orum” [prayers of the holy festivals in the synagogues of the Jews]), title page recto, colophon page recto, and verso of rear flyleaf. Episodic small stains; one minor worm hole in lower margin of first two leaves, another in upper margin of first seven leaves; small tear in upper edge of upper flyleaf; longer tear on f.  of the siddur repaired; binding of piyyutim quires ii-vii cracked and therefore loose from close to head down to foot; small original paper imperfection at lower edge of f.  of the piyyutim. Early sixteenth-century leather, stamped with two panels and a central frieze on both front and rear covers; front and rear covers slightly stained, worn along edges, with minimal signs of worming; paper edges gilt and gauffered with pairs of fillets forming diamonds with centered rosettes formed of six dots around a central dot; spine in five compartments with raised bands, headband and tailband exposed; manuscript title and shelf mark on spine: “Ora[ti]o[n]es Juda[e]oru[m]” and “18588”; original flyleaves and pastedowns, the latter slightly warped.
1. The book was apparently bound in its current binding soon after being printed, as evidenced by both the panel designs on the upper and lower boards and the ornamental patterns of the gilt and gauffered paper edges. These panels were in use in the first half of the sixteenth century by bookbinders in Flanders and Brabant. The present binding was most likely produced by Jan Tys, known to have worked in Mechelen in 1516-1535 (and perhaps as long as 1509-1541; allowing an outside chance that it is from Geraert Anthonisz van der Hatart, known to have worked in ‘s-Hertogenbosch ca. 1500-1540), contemporary with the date of the printing of the siddur. Similarly, the page edges bear a striking resemblance to those of manuscripts deriving from the same geographic vicinity (Mechelen, Bruges, Ghent, Hainaut, etc.) in the same period of the sixteenth century, examples of which can be found at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
2. At some point, presumably early on, the book came into the possession of Johannes Syen, who wrote the following on the front flyleaf recto: “Sum Johannis Syenii, n[e]c muto dominu[m]” (I am the property of Johannis Syen, do not change my master).
3. Despite the exhortation inscribed by Syen, the siddur seems to have eventually made its way into the library of the Abbey of St. Vaast, a Benedictine monastery situated in Arras, département of Pas-de-Calais, France. The abbey was founded in 667 in honor of St. Vaast/Vedast (ca. 453-540), the first bishop of Arras, by St. Auburt, seventh bishop of the city, and would come to occupy a prominent position among the monasteries of the Low Countries. In 1628, our siddur, like many of the library’s other holdings, was marked in manuscript as the property of the monastery; see the labels on the title page and the colophon page: “Bibliot[h]ecae [monasterii] S[ancti] Vedaſti Atrebatenſis 1628” and “Bibliot[hecae] mona[ste]rÿ S[ancti] Vedasti Atreb[atensis] 1628,” respectively. The library’s collection was extensive, and by 1631, under abbe Philippe de Caverel, included about 24,000 volumes, of which seven hundred were Greek and Hebrew titles.
4. In 1790, during the French Revolution, the monastery was suppressed, with its buildings being used first as a hospital and then as a barracks, and its library was transferred to the state, which dispersed some of the books to other regional libraries, including the Bibliothèque municipale d’Arras. Presumably, the siddur was among the books dispersed in this way. It was eventually sold into private hands, as evidenced by a sales note on the verso of the rear flyleaf which reads: “Vendu 15 Dbre 1856” (sold December 15, 1856).
Adolphe de Cardevacque and Auguste Terninck, L’Abbaye de Saint-Vaast: monographie historique, archéologique et littéraire de ce monastère, vol. 3 (Arras: Alphonse Brissy, 1868), 28-29.
The Digital Walters (http://www.thedigitalwalters.org/01_ACCESS_WALTERS_MANUSCRIPTS.html), MSS W.117, W.266, W.298, W.428, W.434, W.440
Staffan Fogelmark, Flemish and Related Panel-Stamped Bindings: Evidence and Principles (New York: Bibliographical Society of America, 1990), 35-42.
A.M. Habermann, Ha-sefer ha-ivri be-hitpattehuto mi-simanim le-otiyyot u-mi-megillah le-sefer (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, 1968), 119.
A.M. Habermann, Ha-madpis daniyyel bombirgi u-reshimat beit defuso (Safed: Museum of Printing Art, 1978).
A.M. Habermann, Ha-madpis cornelio adelkind u-beno daniyyel u-reshimat ha-sefarim she-nidpesu al yedeihem (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, 1980).
Diane Joyce Reilly, “The Saint-Vaast Bible: Politics and Theology in Eleventh-Century Capetian France” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1999), 10.
Isaiah Sonne, “Shemot ha-maggihim u-beneihem be-siddurei tefillah u-mahzorim,” Kiryat sefer 4,1 (1927): 55-58.
Isaac Yudlov and G. J. Ormann, Sefer ginzei yisra’el: sefarim, hoverot, va-alonim me-osef dr. yisra’el mehlman, asher be-beit ha-sefarim ha-le’ummi ve-ha-universita’i (Jerusalem: JNUL, 1984), 53 (no. 204).
Isaac Yudlov, Otsar ha-haggadot: bibli’ogerafyah shel haggadot pesah me-reshit ha-defus ha-ivri ad shenat 720 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1997), 1-3 (nos. 1-14).
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