The Halpern Judaica Collection: Tradition and Treasure | Part II

The Halpern Judaica Collection: Tradition and Treasure | Part II

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 286. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, [Krakow: Aaron and Mordecai Prostitz, 1616-ca. 1620].

Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, [Krakow: Aaron and Mordecai Prostitz, 1616-ca. 1620]

Lot Closed

December 20, 06:15 PM GMT


5,000 - 7,000 USD

Lot Details


Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, [Krakow: Aaron and Mordecai Prostitz, 1616-ca. 1620]

A rare treatise from an early portable edition of the Babylonian Talmud.

Beginning with the first tractate published in Soncino in 1483-1484, the Talmud was virtually always printed in folio or small folio format. Its text was accompanied by the commentary of Rashi and, depending on the tastes of the printers, that of the Northern French Tosafist scholars as well. With the appearance of the first complete editions issued by Daniel Bomberg in Venice in the first half of the sixteenth century, the Talmudic page was standardized, allowing Torah scholars to reference passages with greater specificity than ever before. However, these large volumes were generally bulky and expensive, putting the acquisition of a complete set of the Talmud out of the reach of many, including impoverished yeshivah students.

To answer the need for a more affordable and portable Talmud, descendants of the great Krakow publisher Isaac ben Aaron Prostitz (d. 1612) produced a new edition between 1616 and about 1620 in octavo format. Breaking with the tradition established by Bomberg, they laid out the Talmudic page anew and removed the commentary of the Tosafists. References to Bomberg’s standard foliation, as well as those of the Massoret ha-shas and Ein mishpat, were sparingly added in the margins, along with occasional quotations of explanations of difficult words by the author of the Arukh Talmudic dictionary. The text of this edition was based on the previous, full-sized Prostitz edition published in 1602-1605, and most of the treatises, including Bava batra, were issued without title pages.

With this new, smaller format, the printers anticipated, a student of Talmud will be able to “leave and return with his Talmud in hand to learn from it,” and there will be “great benefit to both the poor and the wealthy, young men and lads, since a person can purchase them easily, without expense; and even those who have copies of the older or newer Six Orders [of the Talmud] from the large printing will not have to use them all the time, and this will bring great benefit, since they will remain in [good] condition…” It seems these predictions may have come true, as surviving copies of tractates from this edition were rare already by the last quarter of the nineteenth century.


Mendel Rosenbaum (f. 1r)

Physical Description

256 folios (7 5/8 x 6 1/8 in.; 193 x 156 mm) (collation: i-lxiv4) on paper; modern foliation in pencil in lower margins; episodic marginalia and corrections. Dampstaining toward front and rear; minor dog-earing and creasing; repairs on ff. 1-4, with small losses near upper margins of ff. 3-4; small hole in inner column of f. 2 and in outer column of f. 176, affecting individual letters; small repairs in lower edge of f. 25 and in outer edge of f. 52; small holes in outer margins of ff. 33-34; ff. 90-91 loose at head and ff. 154-155, 170-171 loose at foot; short tear extending from upper edge of f. 98; f. 256 strengthened along gutter. Modern brown leather blind-tooled with escutcheon containing tractate name on upper board, slightly scuffed; spine in five compartments with raised bands; tractate name lettered in gilt on spine; modern paper flyleaves and pastedowns.


Marvin J. Heller, Printing the Talmud: A History of the Earliest Printed Editions of the Talmud (Brooklyn: Im Hasefer, 1992), 381-390.

Marvin J. Heller, The Seventeenth Century Hebrew Book: An Abridged Thesaurus, vol. 1 (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2011), 332-333, 350-351.

Raphael Nathan Note Rabbinovicz, Ma’amar al hadpasat ha-talmud (Munich: E. Huber, 1877), 74-75 (no. 16).

Moïse Schwab, “Une édition rarissime du Talmud,” Revue des études juives 63 (126) (April-June 1912): 300-303.

Vinograd, Kraków 335