Lot 9: Quires of the First Printed Edition of the Talmud - Soncino, 1489
15 November 2016
Jerusalem, IsraelLive Auction
Description: Quires (signatures) from Tractates Bava Kama and Bava Metziah, printed in Soncino, in 1489 by Gershom Soncino and David Pitzigton. The first printed edition of the Talmud. · 27 leaves of Tractate Bava Kama. Leaf 8 of Quire 12; Leaves 1-8 of Quire 13; Leaves 1-2, 4-8 of Quire 14; Leaves 1-6 of Quire 15; Leaf 8 of Quire 18; Leaves 1-4 of Quire 19. From the middle of Chapter Merubeh, Chapter HaChovel (lacking one leaf), and parts of Chapters HaGozel Etzim and HaGozel U'Ma'achil. [Leaves 77b-96b, and 116b until the end of the tractate, following the pagination used today], with the first page of Piskei Tosfot. · 10 leaves of Tractate Bava Metziah. Leaves 2-8 of Quire 5, and Leaves 1-3 of Quire 6. From the middle of Chapter Elu Metziot until the beginning of Chapter HaMafkid. [Leaves 27-35, according to the pagination used today]. Leaves from the first printing of the Talmud printed by the Soncino family are very scarce due to a number of reasons: a. This edition of the Talmud was printed clandestinely because the printers feared the Christian rulers, since the work was begun after the Popes decreed burning the Talmud in the 13th century (in 1239 and again in 1264). Therefore, the printing of entire Talmud was not completed by the Soncino family (see: R. N. N. Rabinowitz, the article about the printing of the Talmud, pp. 8-9). b. Many copies which were sold in Spain and Portugal were lost during the years of expulsion and persecution in 1492-1497. c. Many copies were burnt in 1553-1554 after Pope Paul IV of Italy decreed the burning the Talmud. (See: R. N. N. Rabinowitz, ibid. p. 15). d. Many copies were worn and lost due to their heavy use for Talmudic study. [This was the only copy of the Talmud printed for decades]. Most of the leaves which have survived until our days are worn and damaged and dozens of consecutive leaves found in reasonable condition such as these quires are very rare. This lot has close to 40 leaves of Tractates Bava Kama and Bava Metziah. These tractates were printed in Soncino, apparently by Gershom Soncino (Tractates Berachot and Betzah which preceded these were printed by his uncle Yehoshua Shlomo son of R. Yisrael Natan Soncino), in c. 1489. This edition was the first to incorporate the Tosfot as an integral part of the Talmud Daf (Leaf) together with Rashis commentary (as opposed to the Spanish printings which printed only Rashis commentary beside the text of the Talmud). In addition, this edition determined the type of Tosfot attached to each tractate for future generations (usually, Tosfot Rabbi Eliezer of Touques). On the other hand, the "tzurat hadaf" (the layout of the Talmud page) and pagination of this printing differs from the format used today. Todays "tzurat hadaf" was set in the Bomberg edition which was printed after the Soncino edition. For further information about the choice of Tosfot determined for each tractate by the Soncino family see: Shem HaGedolim by the Chida, Ma'arechet Sefarim, Entry Tosafot of Sens). At the end of Tractate Bava Kama is a colophon for both Tractate Bava Kama and for Bava Metziah: "I have meticulously proofread these tractates, Bava Kama and Bava Metziah and know that they are very accurate, with the exception of a few places for which I had reservations and in that case, I used the books which were in front of me. Because I obligated myself to the buyers with an oath and fines that I would complete these tractate before Pesach, and due to bad events I tarried to complete them until the 14th (of Nissan). With deep sorrow and great toil, I did not have the time to list the places for which I was in doubt as I had done in the tractates I had printed in the past. But know that they are very very good and you will not find lacking except for the letter Bet exchanged for a Kaf (letters which look alike) and likewise. David son of R' Elazar HaLevi". [According to R. N. N. Rabinowitz, the proofreader is Rabbi David son of R. Eliezer HaLevi Pitzigton, a scholar who lived in Italy at the turn of the 16th century. On the margins of some leaves are ancient handwritten glosses, with corrections of the versions of the Talmud and of Rashi [the corrections appear in the following editions of the Talmud, but not in the printed version of this edition]. 2 items,  leaves. Approximately 31 cm. Varying condition among the leaves, overall fair condition (some leaves are in good condition). Stains, wear and tears. Some leaves have coarse tears affecting text. Ancient owner's inscriptions "Daniel", "Yitzchak Bibamiya" (?). The Soncino family, a Jewish family whose sons were among the first Hebrew printers, derived its name from the town of Soncino in Northern Italy in which the family settled and established its first printing press. There they began printing the Babylonian Talmud (simultaneously, several tractates were printed in Spain). The first tractate, Berachot, was printed in 1484. Due to the difficulties and troubles they encountered, they were forced to wander together with their printing tools and traversed various Italian cities. In each location, they set up their printing press and continued printing important Hebrew books. Provenance: Sassoon family collection. David Sassoon dated the printing to 1488. [According to the Bibliography of the Hebrew Book (Record no. 328506): Most of the bibliographers dated the printing of these tractates to 1489. Freidman dates these two tractates one year later - 1490].