PENTATEUCH, SABBIONETA: CORNELIO ADELKIND AND TOBIAS FOA, [CA. 1553-1554]
226 folios (3 3/4 x 2 1/4 in.; 96 x 58 mm) (collation: i-xxviii8, xxix2) on paper; enlarged incipits; no vocalization or accentuation; headers and catchwords; intermittent marginalia, corrections, and modifications of printed letters in pen; sequences of words whose first or last letters spell the Tetragrammaton are sometimes marked in pen; the custom of vavei ha-ammudim is observed, with both shemor lekha and shenei ha-se‘irim placed at the head of the shin column and mah tovu and motsa sefatekha placed at the head of the mem column. Dampstaining; slight scattered staining and dogearing; small tear in outer edge of f. 20; individual words on ff. 97r, 100v, 187v, 216v damaged and replaced in manuscript; small hole in center of f. 136. Nineteenth-century calf, lightly worn around the edges; title, place, and date lettered in gilt on spine, accompanied by paper ticket with shelf mark, torn; edges and turn-ins gilt; nineteenth-century paper flyleaves and pastedowns.
A pocket-size edition meant to facilitate public Torah reading, this copy including the rare last three leaves.
Tobias ben Eliezer Foa established a Hebrew press in his home in Sabbioneta in 1551. Following the burning of the Talmud in 1553 and the subsequent cessation of Hebrew printing in Venice, Foa’s publishing house rose to prominence as one of the only Hebrew printshops still functioning in Italy. Joined by the veteran Venice-based printer Cornelio Adelkind, Foa would publish as many as twelve Hebrew titles in the years 1553-1554 alone, including the present Pentateuch. Printed in miniature format without vowels or accents, it was intended, according to the publisher’s notice on the verso of the title page, to “accompany a person constantly […] and from it he will accustom himself to read accurately, as is required of those who read in public.”
Interestingly, an early owner of this volume appears to have also used it as a tikkun soferim (model codex for scribes writing Torah scrolls). He dotted each word that would appear at the start of a line in a Torah scroll, and every fifty such words he designated in the margin as the first word of a Torah scroll column. By the end of the book, he had marked the beginning of 202 columns (observing the custom of vavei ha-ammudim), adding in masoretic notes, special forms of certain letters (otiyyot meshunnot), and scribal instructions along the way.
“Trinity College in Cambridge presented [this book] to William Aldis Wright, A.M., former vice-master. 1914” (pastedown of upper board)
A.M. Habermann, Ha-madpis cornelio adlekind u-beno daniyyel u-reshimat ha-sefarim she-nidpesu al yedeihem (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, 1980), 80-81 (no. 124).
Vinograd, Sabbioneta 20
Avraham Yaari, “Ha-madpisim benei foa,” in Mehkerei sefer: perakim be-toledot ha-sefer ha-ivri (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1958), 323-419, at p. 361 (no. 15).