SEFER BINYAMIN ZE’EV (RESPONSA AND LEGAL DECISIONS), RABBI BENJAMIN ZE’EV BEN MATTATHIAS OF ARTA, VENICE: DANIEL BOMBERG, 1538-1539
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SEFER BINYAMIN ZE’EV (RESPONSA AND LEGAL DECISIONS), RABBI BENJAMIN ZE’EV BEN MATTATHIAS OF ARTA, VENICE: DANIEL BOMBERG, 1538-1539

Estimate: 5,000 - 7,000 USD

SEFER BINYAMIN ZE’EV (RESPONSA AND LEGAL DECISIONS), RABBI BENJAMIN ZE’EV BEN MATTATHIAS OF ARTA, VENICE: DANIEL BOMBERG, 1538-1539

Estimate: 5,000 - 7,000 USD

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Lot Details

Description

SEFER BINYAMIN ZE’EV (RESPONSA AND LEGAL DECISIONS), RABBI BENJAMIN ZE’EV BEN MATTATHIAS OF ARTA, VENICE: DANIEL BOMBERG, 1538-1539


570 folios (7 5/8 x 5 3/8 in.; 193 x 137 mm) (foliation: [1]-367, [1-2], 376-399, 399-575) on paper; marginal comment on f. 490r. Slight scattered staining and soiling; dampstaining; individual words and lines expurgated intermittently throughout; upper-outer corners of ff. 568-575 repaired. Modern gilt-tooled tan morocco, somewhat worn around edges and on spine; spine in five compartments with raised bands; title lettered in gilt on spine; red edges; modern marbled paper flyleaves and pastedowns.

Cataloguing

Catalogue Note

The first edition of a controversial halakhic work, from the collection of Meir Leibush Malbim (1809-1879), rabbi of Bucharest.


Sefer binyamin ze’ev, written by Rabbi Benjamin Ze’ev ben Mattathias of Arta (early sixteenth century), comprises four hundred forty-eight legal decisions and responsa and constitutes an important source for understanding the economic conditions and religious life of the Jews of Greece, Turkey, and Asia Minor. However, this work also aroused a good deal of controversy. As a result of his lenient decisions on behalf of an agunah (woman whose husband may or may not be alive), R. Benjamin Ze’ev was severely criticized by several of his contemporaries, including a number of prominent Ashkenazic and Italian rabbis. While Rabbi Moses Isserles (1525/1530-1572) quotes the book with some frequency, it seems that the opposition to it of Isserles’ relatives Rabbis Solomon Luria (ca. 1510-1574) and Meir Katzenellenbogen (1473-1565), among others, prevented it from being reprinted until 1959, when it appeared again in Jerusalem.


A fascinating typographical curiosity may be found at the beginning of quire 47, where the pressman notes, in both Italian and Hebrew, “This quire, number 47, has only a single leaf [bifolium].” It seems that the reason for this unusual notice is to be discovered at the top of the previous folio, where the author writes: “After the book was completed, I removed the text of essays 255 and 256 to preserve peaceful relations [with the Gentiles].” Still, the author’s efforts to remove problematic material apparently were not thorough enough, since several of the book’s passages were subsequently censored in many copies, including the present one.


Provenance

Zevi Hirsch Winter (bookplate on pastedown of upper board)


Meir Leibush Malbim, head of the rabbinic court of Bucharest (f. [1r])


Literature

Meir Benayahu, Mavo le-sefer binyamin ze’ev: me-hibburo shel rabbi binyamin be-r. mattityah me-arta (Jerusalem: Yad Harav Nissim, 1989).


A.M. Habermann, Ha-madpis daniyyel bombirgi u-reshimat sifrei beit defuso (Safed: The Museum of Printing Art, 1978), 72 (no. 161).


Marvin J. Heller, The Sixteenth Century Hebrew Book: An Abridged Thesaurus, vol. 1 (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2004), 230-231.


Vinograd, Venice 167


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), 118 (no. 702).

Sacred Splendor: Judaica from the Arthur and Gitel Marx Collection
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