PENTATEUCH, FIVE SCROLLS, AND HAFTAROT, VENICE: GIOVANNI DI GARA, 1588-1589
3 parts in 1 volume (3 3/4 x 1 7/8 in.; 94 x 46 mm): Part 1 (Pentateuch): 162 folios; Part 2 (Five Scrolls): 24 folios; Part 3 (Haftarot): 57 of 59 folios (final blank lacking) on paper; no vocalization or accentuation. Borders of typographic ornaments on three title pages; opening word of Pentateuch and Five Scrolls sections within decorative frames. Lacking ff. 25, 36 (first and final leaves of quire 3) of Haftarot; light dampstaining and dogearing; lower margin of Pentateuch title page repaired. Early leather boards elaborately tooled in gilt; joints of upper board starting; some wear to spine and lower board; red edges; green silk bookmark; marbled paper flyleaves and pastedowns. Housed in a modern padded calf slipcase.
Giovanni (Juan) di Gara was the most successful Venetian printer of Hebrew books in the second half of the sixteenth century. He had apparently learned the art of Hebrew printing from Daniel Bomberg and considered himself to be the latter’s successor, even inheriting some of his typographic materials. His printing activity spanned close to half a century (1564-ca. 1610) and covered a wide range of Hebrew literature.
The present miniature biblical imprint is composed of three sections, each with its own title page: the Pentateuch, the Five Scrolls, and the haftarot. It therefore contains all the biblical texts read publicly in the synagogue throughout the liturgical year. The Pentateuch is divided into fifty-four pericopes to be chanted weekly, and the Five Scrolls are read on the three pilgrimage festivals, Purim, and Tish‘ah be-Av. In addition, each pericope is assigned an appropriate haftarah lection from the books of the Prophets; other haftarot for special Sabbaths, festivals, and fast days are also included. An index of the required Pentateuchal readings for special Sabbaths, festivals, and fast days follows the Five Scrolls section.
Di Gara attempted to ensure the success of this pocket-size edition by appealing to all three of the constituencies in Venice that formed his strongest potential customer base. In printing the haftarah customs of the Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and local Italian Jewish communities, he had produced a work which had broad appeal and, with its convenient format, could be easily transported at all times. Moreover, the title page of the Pentateuch section declares that the present edition improves upon earlier versions that did not include all of the haftarot.
A.M. Habermann and Isaac Yudlov, Ha-madpis juan di gara u-reshimat sifrei beit defuso, 324-370 (1564-1610) (Lod: Mekhon Habermann le-Mehkerei Sifrut, 1982), 49 (no. 100), 53-54 (nos. 105-106).
Vinograd, Venice 723