357 leaves (13 x 9 in.; 330 x 228 mm). Four parts in one with three separate collations: (1-166) (14, 2-226, 235) (1-216)=357 leaves; quire 2 in first signature series misbound. Woodcut title border and initial, a few small diagrams, woodcut headpiece; title inlaid and lower outer corner renewed with some loss of border, first four quires waterstained and mended with loss of a few words, subsequent leaves with mostly marginal waterstaining except heavier in the last eight quires, margins renewed in last three leaves, a few leaves lightly browned, tear mended in lower margin of one leaf. Owner's inscriptions on title pages of first three parts. Old blue cloth, ms. title label on spine; foot of spine chipped, corners torn, rubbed.
The Arba'ah Turim, often referred to simply as the Tur, is the halakhic compendium of Jacob ben Asher (c. 1270-1340). The complete work is divided into four sections called Turim (rows). Part I, Orah Hayyim, contains 697 chapters and deals with blessings, prayers, the Sabbath, festivals, and fasts; Part II, Yoreh De'ah, 403 chapters on Issur ve-Hetter (ritual law), commencing with the laws of ritual slaughter and kashrut and ending with chapters on usury, idolatry, and mourning; Part III, Even ha-Ezer, 178 chapters on laws affecting women, particularly marriage, divorce, halizah, and ketubbah; Part IV, Hoshen Mishpat, 427 chapters on civil law and personal relations. The arrangement of the book, its simple style, and its wealth of content, made it a basic work in Hebrew law, and opened a new era in the realm of halakhic codification.
The superiority of the work soon led to its dissemination throughout the Diaspora. Its authority was recognized and accepted by all Jewish scholars throughout the generations, many of whom (including the likes of Joseph Caro, Moses Isserles, Isaac Aboab, Jacob ibn Habib, Joel Sirkes, and Hayyim Benveniste) used it as the point of departure for their own writings. In fact, when Caro wrote his major work, the Beit Yosef, he based it on the Arba'ah Turim. This in turn was the basis for the Shulhan Arukh which ultimately took its place as the unchallenged halakhic code par excellence. So important was this work, that it became the most frequently printed work in the 15th and first half of the 16th century. Including the present lot and the two other editions printed in 1540, the Tur was printed at least twenty times (including eight editions complete with all four sections), in the sixty five years since the appearance of the first incunable edition in Piove di Sacco, 1475. This edition, one of three printed in 1540, is the fifth printing of the Tur by a member of the Soncino printing dynasty. As noted on the title page, this edition incorporates source references, printed in the margins, and diagrams printed with the text for such topics as Eruvin and Sukkah. There are also full page tables for calendrical calculations.
By 16 December 1539, Soncino had already completed two of the four parts of the present work, as indicated in the colophon to Imrei Noam (see lot 93), yet the entire edition of the Arba'ah Turim would not be completed until more than eight months later on 20 August 1540.
Provenance: Menahem al-Harb-his inscription on first leaf of Even ha-Ezer
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