In the Middle Ages, most biblical commentaries were transmitted not on the same page as the biblical text but instead in separate pamphlets called kunteresim. However, with the advent of print and specifically with the publication of the Bologna 1482 Pentateuch, which featured Targum Onkelos and Rashi in addition to Scripture, Hebrew printers increasingly began incorporating multiple works on the same page. This process reached maturity in Bomberg’s 1517 Rabbinic Bible, where the Pentateuch was printed with Targum Onkelos and the commentary of Rashi (1040-1105); the Prophets were printed with Targum Jonathan and the commentary of Radak (1160-1235); and the Hagiographa were printed with Targum (excepting the books of Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles) and the commentaries of Rashi (Five Scrolls, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles), Radak (Psalms), Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Yahya (ca. 1440-1524; Proverbs), Nahmanides (1194-1270; Job), Rabbi Abraham Farissol (1451-1525; Job), Gersonides (1288-1344; Daniel), and an abridged version of the medieval midrashic compendium Yalkut shim‘oni (Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles).
In addition to including translation and commentary, though, Bomberg’s Bible was also trailblazing in other ways. The book’s editor, Felix Pratensis, did not simply publish the text of a single manuscript, but rather sought out multiple recensions of Scripture (most of them Sephardic, although some Ashkenazic as well) with an eye toward arriving at the most accurate version possible. Furthermore, Pratensis was the first to note textual variants (particularly differences between plene and defective spellings), as well as the kerei (those occasions when a word is pronounced differently than spelled), in the margins of the biblical text. Moreover, Bomberg’s Rabbinic Bible of 1517 was the first edition of Hebrew Scripture to include chapter numbers, which had been indirectly borrowed from the Christian Vulgate, and to divide the books of Samuel, Kings, Ezra, and Chronicles into two books each, just as Christian Bibles do (see part 1, ff. 56r, 99r, and part 3, ff. 152v, 165v). (Verse numeration was not introduced into a Jewish Bible until 1548.)
These latter features were especially important in allowing Bomberg to market his Biblia Rabbinica not only to Jews, but also to Christian readers accustomed to seeing the Old Testament divided in this way. In fact, the Rabbinic Bible became a standard reference tool, particularly for Protestant Hebraists, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and a number of prominent scholars (Melanchthon, Reuchlin, Bucer, Muenster, Fagius) and university libraries (Jena, Strasbourg, Geneva, Zurich) are known to have owned copies of Bomberg’s 1517 edition. Indeed, recognizing the diversity of his customer base, Bomberg the businessman printed two separate title pages for the Pentateuch volume – one with a Latin dedication to the pope on the verso and one without – as well as a single leaf on which he gathered Radak’s sharpest anti-Christian comments to Psalms, which could either be included or not depending on the buyer’s wishes. (Interestingly, Bomberg chose not to reprint Radak’s commentary to Psalms in his second Rabbinic Bible of 1524-1525.)
The present lot comprises three of four parts of Bomberg’s 1517 Biblia Rabbinica, lacking only the Pentateuch, the Five Scrolls, and the rare masoretic, targumic, and other treatises appended to the end of the Hagiographa (as well as the aforementioned leaf of anti-Christian polemics). These volumes have been preserved in fine condition and feature numerous marginalia as well as interesting ownership histories traceable, e.g., in the case of part 2, to the regional rabbi of Schattmannsdorf (present-day Častá, Slovakia), most likely a member of the Frankel family.
Abraham Figo (f. 1r)
[Beit] Midrash Galmidi, borrowed by Rabbi Hayyim Gabbai from Rabbi Jacob Uzziel (f. 1r)
Bezirks-Rabbinat Schattmannsdorf (ff. 2r, 3r)
Moses ben Aaron Solomon Halperin, his father, and his father’s father, 8 Tevet 334 [December 1573] (f. 185v)
Naphtali (cognomen: Hirsch) ben Rabbi Simhah of Amsterdam, Frankfurt am Main, 1 Marheshvan 458 [October 15, 1697] (f. 185v)
Stephen G. Burnett, “The Strange Career of the Biblia Rabbinica among Christian Hebraists, 1517-1620,” in Bruce Gordon and Matthew McLean (eds.), Shaping the Bible in the Reformation: Books, Scholars and Their Readers in the Sixteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 63-83.
A.M. Habermann, Ha-madpis daniyyel bombirgi u-reshimat beit defuso (Safed: Museum of Printing Art, 1978), 28-30 (no. 8).
Jordan S. Penkower, “Mahadurat ha-tanakh ha-rishonah she-hotsi bomberg le-or ve-reshit beit defuso,” Kiryat sefer 58,3 (1983): 586-604, at p. 596 (no. 3).
Jordan S. Penkower, “The Chapter Divisions in the 1525 Rabbinic Bible,” Vetus Testamentum 48,3 (July 1998): 350-374.
David Stern, “The Rabbinic Bible in Its Sixteenth-Century Context,” in Joseph R. Hacker and Adam Shear (eds.), The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 76-108, 252-268.
Vinograd, Venice 6
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