Libraries within Libraries: The creation of the Kaufmann Book Collection (Part II: From the plains of Emilia)

by Fabrizio Quaglia

This is the second in a series of posts by Fabrizio Quaglia on his ongoing work collecting Footprints and other data from the collection of David Kaufmann, now at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. As Quaglia notes, the collection is multilayered, revealing libraries within libraries.

Abraham Joseph Salomon Graziano (1619-1685)

Mevakesh H. with Graziano inscription (Venice 1596, f. 1v. [Kaufmann B 413] )

The Mantuan origin of the owners of many of the items in the Kaufmann library is of course not the only geographical point of departure from which it grew. The provenance of at least fourteen 16th-17th century Hebrew books (with more identified through ongoing work) that belonged to Avraham Yosef Šelomoh Graṣiano of Pesaro (Abraham Joseph Salomon Graziano; 1619-1685) takes us to Modena, where he was rabbi since 1647 after having moved there in 1635. Graziano created one of the largest Jewish libraries of the time: circa 4,000 volumes. This library has been dispersed in various libraries (more than two thirds outside Italy), including private ones. Today only around 200 manuscripts (11 in the Kaufmann collection), and about a hundred books, often annotated by him have been identified. Graziano signed his volumes in Hebrew with the initials of his and his father’s names, אי”ש ג”ר. Graziano was a cousin of Netan’el b. Binyamin Ṭraboṭ (1576-1653), his colleague in Modena, from whom he inherited about 70 printed and handwritten items. In one of his manuscripts[1], Graziano recorded the volumes he bought during the time – indicating from whom he purchased and how much he paid it. His lists, however, are incomplete and sometimes incorrect since certain books that are in the Kaufmann collection are absent there, and apparently he attributed more than one purchase to a mistaken seller.[2]


The same is true regarding to what Graziano wrote about the provenance on the volumes themselves. An example is his copy (Kaufmann B 413; only edition) of Mevakesh ha-Shem, an exegetical work by the Moroccan rabbi Shemu’el Ḥagiz (d. 1634), published in Venice in 1596. On it Graziano wrote that he bought it from משה טילייו (“Mosheh Telio”) in 1649 in Modena [figure 12]. It seems that the only source concerning this Moise Teglio (this would presumably have been his Italian name) is the list of books that Graziano purchased from him,[3] and from Graziano’s notes on the items themselves, where in most of cases is mentioned as טיליאו (Tigliao?). Sometimes Graziano also clarified that Moise Teglio was רומנו (“Romano,” ie. from Rome, or of Roman origin). According to his own list Graziano got from M. Teglio Mevakesh ha-Shem for three Modenese lire and a half on 8 July 1649 together with Davar Shemu’el, a traditional rabbinical commentary by the same author, printed at the same place and in the same year. Graziano also listed to have bought for seven Modenese lire a little worn copy of a complete edition, printed in Cracow and commented by the Polish rabbi Mosheh b. Yiśra’el Isserleś (1527?-1572), of Shulḥan ‘Arukh by Yosef Karo. Graziano seems to be confused here since his note of purchase of this book from Teglio in 1649 is on f. 3v of Kaufmann B 812, corresponding to the Hanau 1627 edition. A third book is the Yede Mosheh, acquired from Teglio in June or July 1649 for two and a half Modenese lire. Perhaps it is the edition published in Saloniki in 1571, or in Venice in 1597. In any case Graziano affirmed in Kaufmann B 413 to have purchased it for an expensive price together with Mevakesh ha-Shem.[4]

In November/December 1660, Graziano acquired a copy of the reference book on the 613 commandments titled `Avodat ha-Levi, Venice 1546 (Kaufmann B 626) from Rabbi Menaḥem Shabbetai, son of the late rabbi Kanaruṭi..[5] On the title page of this volume, Graziano wrote an additional four titles but it is not sure that he had all of them from M. S. Kanaruṭi. They are: Yefeh nof a miscellany of documents by the Greek poet rabbi Yehudah Zarqo (fl. 16th century), Venice, ca. 1572;[6] Tsori ha-yagon, a work on resignation and fortitude under misfortune by the Spanish philosopher, poet and commentator Šem Ṭov b. Yosef Falaquera (ca. 1225-ca. 1295), edited in Cremona in 1550 and in Prague in 1612; the poem Sefer Taḥkemoni, Constantinople 1578, by the Spanish translator, poet and traveler rabbi Yehudah b. Šelomoh al-Ḥarizi (1170-1235); Ohel Mo‘ed. Members of Canaruti/Cannaruti (so in Italian documents) family were registered in Ferrara in 1630 but no longer in the census of 1692. A Salvator/Salvador Cannaruti was active in Modena as haberdasher in 1692-1693 and a certain Vitale son of the late Moisè Cannaruti lived in the Modenese ghetto in 1670.[7]

Acquisition information by Graziano, ‘Avodat ha-kodesh, printed in Cracow in 1577 (Kaufmann B 627)

Similarly, in the case of the ‘Avodat ha-kodesh, printed in Cracow in 1577 (Kaufmann B 627; first edition) – Graziano declared on the front flyleaf that he purchased the book on 20 September 1676 for 18 lire of Modena along with the untraced Shefa ṭal (Hanau 1612) – from the seller Yitshak son of Samue’el Oka (this is likely the Italian rendering of the Hebrew surname אוקא) of Prague.  This Yitshak is totally unknown to the scholars, though he is clearly named. Graziano also purchased from this Yitshak and from rabbi יהודא טיפליץ Yehuda Ṭipliṣ (Töplitz) son of Ya‘akov from Praga the only edition of ‘Emek ha-Melekh, printed in Amsterdam in 1648 (now in Jerusalem, National Library of Israel, shelf-number 75A1003). He paid for it a golden doppia on 20 September 1676.[8] It is possible that “Praga” does not refer to Prague, the Czech capital, but to Praga, a small, historic town which was attached to Warsaw in 1791. On the other hand, Graziano may have written פראגא and not the more usual פראגה perhaps because he simply transcribed it in Hebrew as it appears in Italian. Certainly, during the 17th century, Modena was a well-known and popular intellectual center frequented by scholars, moving even from abroad and in particular from Prague. On 8 August 1674 Graziano bought another book from from Y. Töplitz: the chronicle Tsemaḥ David (Prague 1592) for 12 paoli. This book is now in the Civic Teresiana Library of Mantua (shelf-number II.D.6).[9]

We do not know how Graziano’s volumes came to Kaufmann despite some signs of later owners that appear on books that belonged to him, because in turn those traces are unclear. On the title page of Y. Isserlein’s Be’urim, Venice 1519 (Kaufmann B 101) there is also the cursive Hebrew signature in Ashkenazi script, possibly datable to the 17th-century, of a Mosheh Lifshits – whose name and last surname are too common to identify him for sure – but apart from the censor’s note by friar Luigi da Bologna written in 1601 at the end of the book, nothing else is visible.

Lastly, according to the ms. Guenzburg 343, f. 125b, p. 24, Graziano bought a copy of Leshon limmudim (Constantinople, 1542, Kaufmann B 394) from the polyglot Christian Hebraist cavalier Antonio Calori, for two and a half Modenese lire, along with two books not kept in the Kaufmann collection: Livyat ḥen (Mantua 1557), and Sefer ‘Arugat ha-bośem, printed in Venice in 1602 (Kaufmann B 645 is a different copy). A. Calori had a valuable library, from which Graziono purchased 33 Hebrew books (including two incunables) and five Hebrew mss from him in the 1650s.

Other Emilian owners

Leaving Modena and Graziano, we come to Carpi, in the province of Modena. A Hebrew-Latin copy of Kalendariū Hebraicum by the German Humanist Sebastian Münster (1489-1552), Basel 1527 (Kaufmann B 286; only edition), belonged to the Catholic order of the Capuchins of Carpi. Maybe this is the reason why the Lutheran author’s name has been erased (but not from his “Epistola nuncupatoria”, nor from p. 1); even the place of printing, the Protestant city of Basel, has been erased (but not from colophon). One can notice that unidentified hands wrote rare Latin glosses on the Hebrew part of the text (as well as on the Latin part) and many cursive Hebrew marginal annotations and calculations on the Hebrew text, and added some Hebrew leaves.

At the end of the second volume of the Frankfurt am Main 1699-1700 edition of Sefer rav Alfas (Kaufmann B 73.2) there is a Hebrew signature by Yitshak son of the honorable teacher and rabbi Mordekhai Soliani followed by his worn-out 17th-century Italian signature “Isac di Marco Sogliani”. One might guess that he lived in Reggio Emilia during the eighteenth century, comparing the Hebrew owner’s note on Kaufmann B 73.2 with the Hebrew calligraphy on the title page of the fourth volume of a copy of the Fürth 1741 edition of Mishnah (in the Biblioteca comunale Teresiana of Mantua, shelf-number I.A.1), which is very similar: “Yiṣḥaq Soliani of Reggio 5544 from Creation [C.E.: 1784] [son] of Mordekhai Soliani, may his Rock keep him and grant him life”.[10]

A certain Refa’el Rovigo presumably lived in Reggio, too. He signed Tiqqun Shovavim, a group of penitential prayers that Mosheh b. Mordeḵay Zacuto (ca. 1620-1697) published in 1674 in Mantua (Kaufmann B 1043; first edition). Information about R. Rovigo is very sparse. In the Hebrew register (at Centro Bibliografico dell’Unione delle Comunità Ebraiche Italiane of Rome[11]) listing the 25 circumcisions made during the years 1730-1733 by Natan b. Shelomoh Kohen of Reggio Emilia, we read that Refa’el Rovigo on 19 June 1731 was sandak in Reggio of Shemu’el, son of a certain Yishma’el Liuṣi (Liuzzi)[12]. This Refa’el Rovigo is not to be confused with Refa’el Mikha’el Rovigo, father of the known kabbalist and Sabbatian Avraham Rovigo of Modena (c. 1650-1714), as some sources alleged.[13]

The same Hebrew inscription as in Kaufmann B 1043, “Higia‘ le-ḥeleq na‘aleh k.m.ha.R. Refa’el Rovigo” can be found on the title page of six auctioned Hebrew books:

1) The first edition of the ethical Beit Midot by the Roman scholar Yeḥi’el b. Yequti’el Anav, printed in Constantinople in 1511; sold in New York on 4 December 2003[14]

2) The second edition with commentaries of Sha’are Dura, a rabbinic code on ritual salting, dietary and menstrual laws and more, by the German Yiṣḥaq b. Me’ir of Düren, Venice 1548; sold in New York on 7 November 2019. (The same copy had already been auctioned and sold there on 18 December 2008)[15]

3) The third edition of Toldot Yitsḥaq by Y. Qaro, that is a concise Torah commentary, Riva di Trento 1558; it was sold in New York on 27 October 2010[16]

4) The first edition (Cremona 1576) of Yosef Lakaḥ – a commentary on the Book of Esther by the Greek physician Eli‘ezer Aškenazi (1512-1585), rabbi of Cremona; whose incomplete copy was sold on 11 July 2016 in Jerusalem with three other 17th-century Hebrew books[17]

5) The first edition (Venice 1697) of Darkei no’am, a collection of responsa by the Egyptian rabbi Mordekhai b. Yehudah ha-Levi (ca. 1600- ca. 1684); sold with six other books of responsa in Jerusalem on 24 June 2010[18]

6) The only edition (Venice 1730) of Meliṣ Yotser, explanations of the penitential liturgy written by the Paduan rabbi Isaia Romanin (1690/1695-1769); sold in Jerusalem on 8 April 2019.[19]

Inside the back cover of 1698 Amsterdam edition (Kaufmann B 634) of ‘En Yiśra’el, one can read the owner’s penciled cropped note of another Jew from Emilia: “Giuseppe Fin[zi] [?] di Correggio … … 1839”. Maybe he was Giuseppe Finzi buried in the Jewish cemetery of Correggio (near Reggio Emilia). G. Finzi was a son of a Samuele Finzi and died on 21 June 1885 at 70.[20] It is less likely that the person who signed this popular book is Giuseppe Finzi, son of Salomone, born on 19 April 1828 and died on 24 October 1902.[21]

The above-mentioned Menorat ha-Ma’or by Y. Aboab (Kaufmann B 498) was also owned in 1859 by a Pio son of Abramo Finzi. Considering that on the title page there is a Hebrew purchase note possibly belonging to the 18th-century, by an undetermined Binyamin Ben Ṣiyyon David of Ferrara, perhaps the owner of Kaufmann B 498 could be a landowner Pio son of Abramo Finzi born in Ferrara. In the years 1887-1888, when his father Abramo was already dead, Pio was a secretary and counsellor in the Banca Mutua Popolare of Ferrara. In 1889, he wrote articles in the “Gazzetta di Ferrara” in which he advocated the use of the Monte di Pietà of Ferrara also for a pawn loan on behalf of raw hemp traders; they would leave their products in Monte di Pietà warehouses. His proposal was refused.[22]

[1] Ms. Guenzburg 343 in the Russian State Library of Moscow, ff. 116v-131r, 148r-154v, corresponding to pp. 6-35, 69-86

[2] The Jewish Encyclopedia, VI, New York, Funk & Wagnalls, 1904, p. 84; Salomone Jona, Abraham Salomon Graziani, poète hébreu du XVII siècle, “Revue des études juives”, III, 1882, 4, p. 119; M. Perani, Il manoscritto ebraico come fonte per la storia sociale degli ebrei, “Materia Giudaica”, IX, 2004, 1-2, pp. 81 e 91; Marisa Allocati Càssola, Una famiglia di ebrei erranti: i Graziani da Ascoli a Modena 1604-1871, “Materia Giudaica”, XV-XVI, 2010-2011, pp. 519, 522-524.

[3] (on f. 123r, p. 19 of the cited ms. Guenzburg 343)

[4] An additional purchase from Teglio not listed in MS Guenzburg 343, is a collection of responsa by Mošeh b. Avraham Provinṣali, acquired on 23 March 1649 – now cataloged as MS. Mich. Add. 36 at Oxford, Bodleian Libraries; Graziano’s note is on f. 18r.

[5]   Menahem Shabbetai recorded a list of 30 items (manuscripts and books) of Yitṣḥak b. Shemu’el Sanguini sold in Modena to Graziano from Sanguini’s widow Ṣipporah and his heirs (See MS Guenzburg 343, f. 127v, p. 28). Fifty Hebrew books owned by the merchant Isach Sanguini (also called Isaac Sanguine and Isacco Sanguineti) were sequestered in Modena in 1636, and himself arrested on the order of the Inquisition, cf. M. Perani, Confisca e censura di libri ebraici a Modena fra Cinque e Seicento, pp. 305-307, 319 (note 74), in L’Inquisizione e gli ebrei in Italia; a cura di Michele Luzzati, Roma; Bari, Laterza, 1994. Maybe he was the mentioned Yiṣḥak b. Shemu’el Sanguini, although the list in Moscow and the one in Archivio di Stato di Modena. Inquisizione, Causae Hebraeorum, busta 247, fascicolo 25, do not match but of course the confiscated volumes might not constitute the full library of I. Sanguini.

[6] The two corresponding Kaufmann items, B 334 and B 416, did not belong to Graziano. The first copy has no trace of  usage, the second one was owned by Menaḥem Qarmi. The absence of a patronymic and a place does not allow to identify with certainty M. Qarmi. He owned more books kept in the Kaufmann collection, including the above- mentioned Kaufmann B 415, and two manuscripts showing his basic signature: 1) the 16th-century Ms. Kaufmann A 170, i.e. the Talmudic ZeraAvraham (“The seed of Abraham”) by Avraham b. Menaḥem Rovigo (b. 1504), a controversial rabbi of Ferrara; 2) the Ms. Guenzburg 327, which is an 18th-century Leḥem ha-Panim (“Showbread”) by Yiṣḥaq b. Šemu’el Levi Valle (d. 1680), rabbi in Verona and Modena, discussing various passages of the first section of Šulḥan Aruby Y. Qaro titled Oraḥ Ḥayyim (“Way of Life”).

[7] Laura Graziani Secchieri, «In casa d’Amadio Sacerdoti lui medesimo d’anni 35». Il censimento del ghetto di Ferrara del 1692, in Ebrei a Ferrara. Ebrei di Ferrara. Aspetti culturali, economici e sociali della presenza ebraica a Ferrara (secc. XIII-XX). Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi (Ferrara 3-4 ott. 2013) Fondazione Museo Nazionale dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della Shoah; a cura di Laura Graziani Secchieri, Firenze, Giuntina, 2014, p. 102; Federica Francesconi, Invisible Enlighteners. The Jewish Merchants of Modena, from the Renaissance to the Emancipation, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021, pp. 131, 138, 143, 145-146, 281 (note 21).

[8] A doppia was a coin initially with a value of two gold scudi minted in Italy from the mid-16th century to the beginning of the 19th century.

[9] Giulio Busi, Libri ebraici a Mantova. Volume primo. Le edizioni del XVI secolo nella biblioteca della Comunità ebraica, Fiesole, Cadmo, 1996, pp. 101-102, no. 120; M. Allocati Càssola, p. 523. The paolo was a silver pontifical coin.

[10] G. Busi, Libri ebraici a Mantova. Volume secondo. Le edizioni del XVII, XVIII, e XIX secolo nella biblioteca della comunità ebraica, Fiesole, Cadmo, 1996, no. 424, p. 270.

[11] Previously kept at the Library of the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano in Florence, ms. 111

[12] Circumcision no. 12 on f. 31v

[13] Gershom Scholem, Rovigo, Abraham ben Michael, in Encyclopedia Judaica, XIV, Jerusalem, Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972, cols. 355-356; Riccardo Di Segni, Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the Library of the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano, Rome, Ramat-Gan, 1990, no. 10.18, p. 159; Angelo Piattelli, Il Registro di un Mohel reggiano del Settecento (1730-1733), “La Rassegna Mensile di Israel”, LVII, 1991, 3, pp. 490, 493, 497, 502;

[14] Kestenbaum, Auction 21. Hebrew Printed Books and Manuscripts. Selections from the Rare Book Room of The JewsCollege Library, London, New York, 2003, lot 19, <>;

[15] Kestenbaum, Auction 42. Fine Judaica. Hebrew Printed Books, Manuscripts, Graphic & Ceremonial Art, New York, Kestenbaum, 2008, lot 176, p. 45, <>; Kestenbaum, Auction 85. Fine Judaica. Printed Books, Manuscripts, Graphic & Ceremonial Art, New York, Kestenbaum, 2019, lot 162, p. 80, <>.

[16] Kestenbaum, Auction 49. Fine Judaica, Hebrew Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters and Graphic Art, New York, Kestenbaum, 2010, lot 202, p. 49, <>;

[17] Kedem, Auction 51. Part I. Books Chassidism Manuscripts Rabbinical Letters, Jerusalem, Keterpress Enterprises, 2016, lot 41, p. 31, <>;

[18] Kedem, Auction 10 Books, Manuscripts, Rabbinical Letters, Jerusalem, 2010, lot 163, p. 93, <>;

[19] Winner’s Auctions Ltd, Auction 113. Illustrious Personalities, Holocaust & Anti-Semitism, Historic Documents, Art, Seforim, Letters from Rabbis and Rebbes & manuscripts, Jerusalem, 2019, lot 186, <>;

[20] Il cimitero ebraico di Correggio. Le iscrizioni in ebraico; a cura di A. Contri e Gabriele Fabbrici, Correggio, Comune di Correggio, 2007, pp. 27-28. The Hebrew tombstone, a little corroded by time, of Giuseppe Finzi is visible here <>.

[21] This information is taken from <>.

[22] “Bollettino ufficiale delle società per azioni”, VII, 1899, 14, pp. 93-96, 101; Pietro Sitta, I Monti di Pietà in Italia (a proposito del secondo Congresso nazionale delle opere pie di Firenze), Roma, Tip. dell’Unione cooperativa editrice, 1893, p. 21.

Libraries within Libraries: The creation of the Kaufmann Book Collection (Part I: The Mantua Connection)

by Fabrizio Quaglia

This is the first in a series of posts by Fabrizio Quaglia on his ongoing work collecting Footprints and other data from the collection of David Kaufmann, now at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. As Quaglia notes, the collection is multilayered, revealing libraries within libraries.

Figure 1: Emanuel Porto, Ḥoḵmatḵem we-binatḵem le-‘einei ha-‘amim = Porto astronomico, Padua 1636; verso of the front flyleaf. [Kaufmann B 288]
Italian bibliographic note by Marco Mortara about the author. Lower, David Kaufmann’s signature.

Like a traveler crossing a world of old papers, I am working on the provenance of the Hebraica and Judaica 15h-18th century volumes of the collection that belonged to the great Hebraist David Kaufmann (1852-1899) and is currently in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. I embarked in a journey to the past through the sources and stories that are found behind those books.  Books that are not very rare or that do not have a highly relevant content become interesting precisely because of the name of their distinguished collectors, some of them today forgotten by the historians while others are completely unknown to bibliographers. Occasionally I stumbled on items that are now missing (although available on microfilm), but my descriptions hopefully perhaps will permit their return.

My two-year job began in September 2022, and it is divided in two parts. The first consists of 250 books, fully digitized in REAL-R – the digital repository of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books and the Oriental Collection at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Out of 250 items, 196 show sure traces of usage, namely owners’ notes written in square and cursive Hebrew (predominantly in an Italian script) and non-Hebrew languages (Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese), as well as Italian and Latin signatures of Church censors, ex libris and annotations. The remaining amount has come down to us in a partial way. For example, in some cases we only have the first name of an owner, while his surname and possible place of residence have been rendered illegible. In several cases, there are anonymous glosses in the books. We have also lost information in rebinding, where flyleaves and boards might have once told us about ownership.

Figure 2: ‘Elleh ha-devarim, Mantua 1566, recto of the front fly-leaf. [Kaufmann B 68]
David Kaufmann’s jubilant note in Hebrew, written in Budapest on 7 June 1895 (the day of his birthday), when he saw the boxes full of books that he had bought from the estate of the recently
deceased rabbi Mortara.

In this post the focus will be on the books with the most significant provenance, where we have identified new owners that had not been found in previous surveys of the collection. Brief biographical sketches will accompany the stories of these books on their journeys to their current home.

The Mantua Connection

Marco Mortara (1815-1894)

The historical nucleus of David Kaufmanns collection contains books and manuscripts once owned by Marco Mortara (1815-1894), rabbi of Mantua since 1842. Kaumann purchased these books from Marco’s third son, the jurist Aristo (1857-1922). At this point 123 Kaufmann Hebrew books have been identified as from Mortara’s collection, with the distinctive printed stickers with red frame and inscription “ex libris M. Mortara” on the spine of the volumes. A few autograph owners notes, and often abbreviated bibliographic data in his handwriting, also reveal a Mortara origin.[1] [figure 1] Kaufmann visited Mortara’s library, one of the finest private libraries in Europe, spanning theological, literary and scientific texts, during two trips to Italy. His first visit was in the summer of 1877, when he arrived to collect the books of the Italian Jewish scholar and poet Lelio Della Torre (1805-1871) from Padua for the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest. Kaufmann’s second visit was on April 1881, on his honeymoon with Irma Gomperz (1854-1905), the scion of wealthy Budapest family. It was a quick sale [figure 2]. Only four postcards from Mortara remain from the communications between Kaufmann and Mortara, and they are preserved in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem (David Kaufmann, Nachträge, P 181). Three postcards were written in Hebrew and one in French, on 28 September 1883, 12 February 1884, 16 November 1884, and 7 June 1885.[2]

Figure 3: Sefer parašiyot ‘im ha-ṭa‘amim še-nohagim la-minḥah be-Šabbat we-be-šeni we-ḥamiši, Mantua 1679; title page. [Kaufmann B 697] Cursive Hebrew signature of the young Samuel Vita Dalla Volta.

Samuel Vita Dalla Volta (1772-1853)

Kaufmann probably knew that Mortaras library was formed from the library of Dr. Samuel Vita Dalla Volta (1772-1853). Mortara used to point out to his illustrious Italian and foreign correspondents the importance of Dalla Voltas collection. On 4 September 1852, Mortara wrote to his former teacher at the Rabbinical College of Padua, Samuel David Luzzatto (1800-1865), that among the volumes of S.V. Dalla Volta was a magnificent fifteenth-century undated edition (not in the Kaufmann collection) of textual and bibliographical relevance of the famous ‘Aruḵ by Natan b. Yeḥi’el (ca. 1035-1106).[3]

Figure 4: Natan Naṭa‘ Hannover, Yeven Meṣulah, Venice, 1653; second title page. [Kaufmann B 250]

S.V. Dalla Volta seems to have been Mortaras mentor and confidant. When Mortara left Viadana to continue his studies in Mantua his family entrusted him to the care of Dalla Volta (Mortara’s father,  Giuseppe (1776-1853) was friendly with Dalla Volta).[4] The very learned[5] Dalla Volta was one of the richest Jews in Mantua.[6] The Dalla Voltas were continually chosen among the massari (“deputies”) who managed the ghetto.[7] In 1823-1824 Samuel Vita was a member of the Commissione di Culto e Beneficenza della Società Israelitica, a board that governed the Jewish community of Mantua,[8] and in that period out of 11 droghieri (“grocers”), nine were Dalla Voltas.[9] The relationship between the young student and the older doctor and pharmacist is documented by a group of letters written when Mortara was in Padua to attend the Rabbinical College and collected in the mss. Kaufmann A 482 and A 484.[10] Another testimony to their relationship is a dedication that Dr. Samuel Vita Dalla Volta wrote and Mortara pasted inside the front cover of his Hebrew notebook (Zikronot), filled by Mortara between 1830s and 1870s with scholarly annotations.[11]

Although Della Voltas library was highly coveted by scholars like Moritz Steinschneider (1816-1907), Mortara claimed that he was able to purchase half of it (the other half was bought by the vice-rabbi of Mantua, Salomon Nissim, 1781-1864), including a good part of his estate, but since Mortara was constantly in very precarious financial straits it was more probably donated by Samuel Vita or by his widow Anna Jona (1786-1855) as a sign of gratitude and friendship.[12]

Figure 5: Mošeh b. Avraham Provinçali, Be-šem qadmon, Venice 1596; spine. [Kaufmann B 213]
Bibliographical data written by M. Mortara.

Sixty-seven books belonging to Samuel Vita Dalla Volta have been counted so far in the Kaufmann collection, among which 51 had belonged to Mortara. Aside from a few owners notes [figure 3], they are recognizable by S.V. Dalla Volta’s erudite glosses and by the Hebrew numerals that he wrote on the front flyleaves and/or the title pages of his volumes [figure 4]. The Hungarian rabbi and academic Solomon Marcus Schiller-Szinessy (1820-1890) stated that those numerals were library-marks.[13] But Schiller-Szinessy wrongly supposed they indicated locations of books in the library of Samuel Voltas father, Leon Samuel Dalla Volta (1730-1801), a pharmacist and grocer and important member of the community of Mantua, since at least two books (Kaufmann B 832 and Kaufmann B 1011) were printed after his death (respectively in 1824 and 1805). After comparing the calligraphy of S.V. Dalla Volta to the mentioned Hebrew numbers, it seems reasonable to suppose that they indicate the book placements in his library, by shelf, bookcase, and book number. Their later owners – Mortara and Kaufmann – had different handwriting; in addition, Mortara inscribed his own shelf-numbers on the spines of the volumes [figure 5].

Sanson Sacerdote Modon (1679-1727)

S.V. Dalla Volta wrote that some items of his collection came from the heirs of his fellow citizen, the rabbi and poet Sanson Sacerdote (Cohen) Modon (1679-1727). This included Sacerdote Modons annotated Hebrew and Italian books and manuscripts, including texts in French and Spanish.[14]

The family of Sanson Cohen Modon (also Modone) was of Greek origin and since the end of the 16th century settled in Mantua, where it became one of the richest of the ghetto. Sanson obtained the lower rabbinic degree of aam in 1721 and was nominated community scribe in 1722; he was also the secretary and chancellor of his Jewish community and member of the rabbinical court of Mantua. Sanson Cohen Modon was an important collector of Jewish books, whose traces lead to public libraries spanning three continents. Included among these books are least four Hebrew incunables and sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Hebrew books, often first editions. The Kaufmann collection holds at least six Hebrew books

Figure 6: Avraham b. Yosef ha-Levi Segal, Maseḵet megillat ta‘ani, Amsterdam 1659; title page. [Kaufmann B 426]
Cursive Hebrew signature by the young Šimšon Kohen Modon dated 28 Ṭevet 5460 [19 January 1700], and Hebrew numerals ג’ רכ”ב that should correspond to shelf-marks of S.V. Dalla Volta’s library, with overwritten Hebrew numerals.

(and around twenty manuscripts) formerly owned by S. Sacerdote Modon [figure 6], but there are bound to be more. An excellent example of these ownerships is the Be-šem Qadmon, Venice 1596 – a guide to the abridged rules of Hebrew grammar poetically expressed by the Talmudist Mošeh b. Avraham Provinṣali (Moisè Provenzali; 1503-1576), chief rabbi in Mantua (Kaufmann B 213; only edition) – which shows signs of use by S. Sacerdote Modon, S.V. Dalla Volta (through his father Leon Samuel), M. Mortara (and by an identified Raḥel Norṣi, probably a Rachel Norsa of Mantua).

Additional Dalla Voltas

The Kaufmann collection owns additional volumes of Mantuan origin. The rabbinical responsum of the physician of Verona Šelomoh ha-Levi, printed in Amsterdam in 1731 (Kaufmann B 975) – was acquired for one lira in 1782 by Ya‘aqov Ḥayyim mi-Lavolṭah of Mantua. He may have been the shopkeeper Jacob Vita Dalla Volta (1765-1847), son of Iseppe Benedetto Dalla Volta (1732-1809) and Ester Dalla Volta. Iseppe Benedetto was a brother of the abovementioned Leon Samuel Dalla Volta. In 1798 Jacob Vita married his cousin Rachele (1775-1847), daughter of L.S. Dalla Volta, thus becoming a brother-in-law to Dr. Samuel Vita Dalla Volta. On the title page of Kaufmann B 975 there are the deleted Hebrew numerals ‘ג’ כ’ ב  that, as stated above, correspond to shelf-marks of S.V. Dalla Volta’s library (there is also the Mortara sticker with bibliographical data inscribed by him). But Jacob Vita was not the only Dalla Volta with this name who lived in Mantua in 1782, the year of purchase of this small book. Another Jew called “Jacob Vitta Volta” (so in the Italian documents) was born in Mantua, in 1751, son of Salvador and Anna Ricca, and there he died in 1795.

Figure 7. Šelomoh b. Avraham b. Šemuʼel, of Urbino, Ohel Mo‘ed, Venice 1548; title page. [Kaufmann B 33]
Hebrew cursive purchase note by Abramo Colorni written in Prague in 1590, slightly deleted.

In turn, a certain Ziporà gave birth on 1 January 1782 to Salomon Jacob Raffael, son of the late “Jacob Vita Volta”. To make matters worse, the dated signature “Iacob Vitta Volta 1764” appears on f. 1v of the incomplete third volume of a Torah at the Civic Library of Verona (shelf-number III.b.8), the Nevi’im Aḥaronim (“Latter Prophets”), Venice 1740. We cannot be sure whether he is the same man described here, since the Verona library also preserves a commented copy of the extremely popular ethical work Sefer Menorat ha-Ma’or by the early 14th century Spanish Talmudist and kabbalist Yiṣḥaq Aboab, published in Frankfurt am Main in 1743, signed in Italian by “Salvador Dalla Volta Dr. a Verona”, “David Dott. Dalla Volta” and “Prospero Dalla Volta” (shelf-number II.a.20) who were presumably members of a family not to be confused with the Dalla Voltas of Mantua. Perhaps “Iacob Vitta Volta” belonged to the Veronese branch of it.[15]

Abramo Colorni (ca. 1544-1599)

One of the most remarkable books coming from Mantua is surely the Ohel Mo‘ed Venice 1548 (Kaufmann B 33; only edition), by Šelomoh b. Avraham b. Šemuʼel of Urbino (end of the 15th-century-beginning of the 16th-century), that was in the possession of the Mantuan Jew Abramo Colorni; ca. 1544-1599) [figure 7]. The contemporary binding of this book shows profiles of Latin classical authors (like Virgil, Cicero and Ovid) and virtuous inscriptions (i.e. “Iusticia” and “Spes”) that almost seem unsuitable for a lexicon on Biblical synonyms. Colorni was immersed in the culture of the world around him, and so it is possible that this is his original binding [figure 8].

Figure 8: Front plate of the German-type Renaissance leather binding.

As a young man, Abramo received a courtier-like education, and he worked for the Gonzagas as an alchemist, an inventor, a military architect and a creator of amazing fireworks. Colorni became famous outside Mantua as an engineer and mechanic, a mathematician, an archaeologist and a builder of clocks, and even as a conjurer and magician. Beginning in 1578 he started serving in the House of Este in Ferrara, and in April 1588, he left Ferrara for Prague. It was in Prague, in the service of emperor Rudolph II (1552-1612), in 1590, where he bought this copy of Ohel Mo‘ed. Rudolph II had established a court of alchemists, astrologers, and artists of various inclinations, and Colorni’s 1593 publication of  Scotographia overo, scienza di scrivere oscuro, facilissima, et sicurissima, per qual si voglia lingua, dedicated to the emperor (see Kaufmann D 84, owned by Mortara), showed his connections to the court. Colorni would return to Mantua not before 1599.[16]

Figure 9: Yiṣḥaq Aboab, Sefer Menorat ha-Ma’or, Mantua 1563; f. 3v. [Kaufmann B 498]
Drawing cut off at the margin by the Mantuan scribe Malḵi’el b. Avraham Aškenazi of a menorah with captions that refer to the nerot (“branches”) namely the seven sections in which this book is divided.

Other Mantuan owners

A copy (Kaufmann B 498) of Menorat ha-ma’or by Y. Aboab, Mantua 1563, includes the unpublished Šemen la-Ma’or, a commentary to Menorat ha-Ma’or by Malḵi’el b. Avraham Aškenazi (Malchiel Tedeschi) [figure 9] The one in Kaufmann B 498 is the only existing copy. Malḵi’el was active in the Jewish community of Mantua during the years 1611-1630, including as community scribe from 1624 until 1630. He authored a Hebrew commentary on the biblical description of the ancient Israelite Tabernacle divided in two volumes: the first is on the building of the Tabernacle in the desert, the second is on the Temple in Jerusalem and its holy vessels. Two of its four known copies are in Budapest (Kaufmann A 554 and A 555), autographs.[17]  The copy of Menorat ha-ma’or  with Ashkenazi’s glosses was purchased by Kaufman in 1882 from rabbi Rafael Natan Rabinowitz (1835-1888), a Lithuanian antiquarian bookseller and an outstanding Talmudic scholar living in Munich. Rabinowitz sold several printed volumes and manuscript to Kaufmann in the 1880s.[18]

Aškenazi also owned three Kaufmann books that are currently missing, all from Mortara’s library:

1) Sefer yoreh ḥaṭa’im ba-dereḵ we-niqra Sefer ha-Kaparot le-ḵol ha-‘over ‘averah, Venice 1589 (Kaufmann B 324)

2) the Jewish catechism Leqaḥ ṭov by the Italian philosopher rabbi Avraham b. Ḥananyah Yagel (1553-1623), with a note by Samuel Vita Dalla Volta (Kaufmann B 325)

3) the Hebrew edition of the travels of Binyamin mi-Ṭudelah (1130-1173), Freiburg-im-Breisgau 1583 (Kaufmann B 326), with another note by S.V. Dalla Volta.

It is not always easy to identify who signed a volume even if one can read the full name because of the recurrence of the same names in families bearing the same surname, as was shown with respect to J.V. Dalla Volta; nor is it less complicated to place an owner in time when his signature is undated and no location is specified. This is the case with Mošeh Yosef Ariani, who bought the Beurim by the Ashkenazi rabbi Yiśra’el b. Petaḥyah Isserlein (1390-1460), Venice 1545 (missing Kaufmann B 253, formerly Mortara). Ariani was a Jewish surname in the Mantuan area, and Mošeh Yosef Ariani’s Hebrew note can be attributed to the late seventeenth or the early eighteenth century, but in that period, there was more than one M.Y. Ariani in Mantua. In 1691 a Mošeh Yosef, son of the late Zekaryah Ariani copied some Kabbalah works (Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, ms. Mich. 143). This M.Y. Ariani also owned a kabbalistic manuscript by Ḥayyim b. Yosef Viṭal (1542 or 1543-1620) copied around the middle of the 17th century (formerly in Jerusalem, ms. K 94 of the collection of prof. Meir Benayahu, 1924-2009). In the registers of the Jewish Community of Mantua one can read the names of two more persons called Moisè Iseppe Ariani (so was the name written in Italian documents) who lived during the same century. One of them (Mošeh Yosef son of Zekaryah?), in 1710 and again in 1716 was chosen as a sort of inspector of the local Jewish school and a manager of its library. The second one – son of Felice Ariani (d. 1775), Massaro alla Polizia and later Massaro alla Guardia notturna (a man delegate to control that no one entered or left the ghetto at night) in the years 1740-1771, and of Bona Finzi (1720-1765) – was Massaro alla Guardia Notturna since December 1775 till December 1783; he was appointed on 28 December 1786 Massaro alle Prestanze (“Deputy to the Loans”). On 5 January 1794, Moisè Iseppe Ariani was one of the three new memonim (“appointees”) of the Jewish school of Mantua, the library catalogues of which they also received. He died on 3 September 1808 65 or 66 old, husband of Bona Ventura, daughter of Isach Rietti and Gentille Monseles, who died at 77 on 5 June 1818. Each of these men called Moisè Iseppe Ariani may have owned Kaufmann B 253.[19]

In another example, a 17th-century Binyamin Ḥayyim Ṣoref who signed himself in Hebrew at the top of the title page of Me-Harere Nemerim, Venice 1599 – a compendium of methodological essays on Talmud treatises

Figure 10: Šemu’el b. Avraham Aboab, Sefer ha-ziḵronot, Prague 1631-1651; inside back cover. [Kaufmann B 235]
Italian list of payments for goods, partially cropped at the top, probably drawn up on 11 May 1713, including prices and accounts in which Lazaro Colorni, member of some relevance in the Jewish community of Mantua, was mentioned. In the left margin a different hand wrote a partially cut off Italian rigmarole as an ownership.

(Kaufmann B 446; only edition) by the Italian scholar Avraham b. Šelomoh ‘Aqrah (ca. 1520- ca. 1600). Among Italian Jewry, the Hebrew surname Ṣoref became Orefice, chiefly in Mantua (registered there even as Oreffici) and Venice. Hence, he could be Benjamin Vita Orefice, but nobody with that identity has been found in any source.[20] Likewise, it can only be supposed that Šelomoh Ḥayyim Ṣiviṭah, owner of ‘Et hazamir, Venice 1707 (Kaufmann B 967; first edition, ex Mortara) – a collection of kabbalistic poems by Binyamin Kohen Viṭale (1651-1730) of Alessandria, in Piedmont – was the same Salomon Vita Civita who died in Mantua on 21 July 1743, where he was a significant member of the Mantuan Jewish community since 1718 till his death.[21]

I’ll conclude this section on Mantuan inscription with some words on the copy of the treatise on ethical conduct Sefer ha-Ziḵronot, Prague, 1631-1651 (Kaufmann B 235; first edition) by the Venetian rabbi Šemu’el b. Avraham Aboab (1610-1694). Its transfers of property exemplify what has been written so far, with ownership by S. Sacerdote Modon, L.S. Dalla Volta, S.V. Dalla Volta and M. Mortara to D. Kaufmann. On its title page one can see the Italian signature “Sanson Sacerd[ot]e Modone” and in cursive Hebrew when he precisely purchased this book, namely on 21 November 1702, and the Hebrew numerals ב’ נ”ו, presumably corresponding to the shelf-marks of the library of Samuel Vita Dalla Volta. At the bottom of the verso of the title page S.V. Dalla Volta wrote in cursive Hebrew on 31 October 1830 that the author of this book was Šemu’el Aboab, following what Ḥayyim Yosef Dawid Azulai (1724-1806) had affirmed, since the name of Š. Aboab is not present on the title page. Furthermore, Dalla Volta marginally glossed and entered corrections in cursive Hebrew on some pages and the usual sticker of Mortara seems to appear on the spine. In addition, inside its covers, payments for goods (clothes, shirts, shoes, pants, and jewels) were listed in Italian, including prices and accounts, and written in the 1710s by several hands (perhaps including Kohen Modon), in which members of some relevance in the Jewish community of Mantua are named. This is an example of the usage of a volume for reasons other than its content. Finally, in the left margin a different hand wrote a partially cut off Italian ownership in the form of a rigmarole: “Mant[ova] // [Questo libro è di carta / Questa car]ta è di stracio. / [Questo stracio è di lino. Questo lino] è di terra. Qu[esta terra è di Dio. Questo lib]ro è il mio; / Mantova”, namely “This book is made of paper / This paper is made of rags. / This rag is made of linen. This linen is from the land. This land belongs to God. This book is mine.” [figure 10]. It was a way of claiming the property of a book mainly practiced in the 18th and 19th centuries (but still in the 20th century) by children and adults, in Italy and elsewhere. They wrote these words or words of similar meaning in their books so that they were not stolen or that they might be returned to them if lost.[22]

[1] See Ḥoḵmatḵem we-binatḵem le-‘einei ha-‘amim = Porto astronomico, Padua 1636 (Kaufmann B 288; first edition) by the Italian mathematician rabbi Emanuel Porto (Menaḥem Ṣiyyon Kohen Rapa Porṭo; d. ca. 1660), in which Mortara referred to Bibliotheca Judaica, Leipzig, 1863, III, p. 116, compiled by the German Hebraist Julius Fürst (1805-1873), where he listed works of E. Porto. Mortara also underlined that Porto in the dedication to Porto astronomico at p. 5 declared that this was his first Italian work. We can deduce that Mortara’s ex libris was printed by the Christian lithographer Lorenzo Podestà (b. 1815) since his name it is visible on some Mortara stickers (on L. Podestà, see Giancarlo Ciaramelli, Cesare Guerra, Tipografi, editori e librai mantovani dell’Ottocento, Milano, FrancoAngeli, 2005, pp. 23, 158, 164, 185-190, 192, 198)

[2] István Ormos, David Kaufmann and his collection, pp. 131, 138, in David Kaufmann Memorial Volume. Papers presented at the David Kaufmann Memorial Conference November 29, 1999, Budapest Oriental Collection Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Edited by Éva Apor, Budapest, MTAK, 2002; Asher Salah, La biblioteca di Marco Mortara, pp. 150, 152, 155, 157, 159-161, in Nuovi studi in onore di Marco Mortara nel secondo centenario della nascita; a cura di Mauro Perani e Ermanno Finzi, Firenze, Giuntina, 2016.

[3] A. Salah, Lepistolario di Marco Mortara 1815-1894). Un rabbino italiano tra riforma e ortodossia, Firenze, Giuntina, 2012, pp. 127-128.

[4] Bruno Di Porto, Marco Mordekai Mortara Doreš Tov, “Materia Giudaica” XV-XVI, 2010-2011, pp. 141, 149 (note 47); A. Salah, Lepistolario di Marco Mortara, p. 11.

[5] This is how the Mantuan rabbi Giuseppe Jarè (1840-1915) defined him in a letter published on 19 August 1879 in the Italian journal “LEducatore Israelita”, XVIII, 1880, p. 280. On the contrary S.D. Luzzatto, who knew him personally, had a different opinion of him. In a Hebrew letter of 1831 Luzzatto wrote that he had met him in Padua and that he had not seemed not very smart to him, nonetheless a good thing was that Dalla Volta was always looking for and scrolling through books, cf. A. Salah, La biblioteca di Marco Mortara, p. 159.

[6] Mario Vaini, Città e campagne tra guerre e rivoluzioni (1797-1866), in Il paesaggio mantovano nelle tracce materiali, nelle lettere e nelle arti. IV. Il paesaggio mantovano dalletà delle riforme all’Unità (1700-1866). Atti del Convegno di studi, Mantova, 19-20 maggio 2005; a cura di Eugenio Camerlenghi, Viviana Rebonato, Sara Tammaccaro, Firenze, Olschki, 2010, p. 236

[7] Paolo Bernardini, La sfida delluguaglianza. Gli ebrei a Mantova nelletà della rivoluzione francese, Roma, Bulzoni, 1996, p. 87.

[8] Budapest, Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Kaufmann ms. A 481, pp. 140, 214, 219.

[9] Marina Romani, Gli ebrei nel contesto socio-economico mantovano del XIX secolo, “Materia Giudaica”, XV-XVI, 2012, p. 212.

[10] A. Salah, Lepistolario di Marco Mortara, pp. 67-76, 219-224.

[11] Mauro Perani, Per uno studio dell’opera e del pensiero di Marco Mortara: recenti scoperte di manoscritti ignoti, la sua bibliografia e piste di ricerca, con un’appendice di documenti inediti, “Materia Giudaica”, XV-XVI, 2010-2011, p. 34. The Zikronot is preserved in Carbonara Po (Mantua) in the collection of Gianbeppe Fornasa.

[12] A. Salah, Steinschneider and Italy, in Studies on Steinschneider: Moritz Steinschneider and the Emergence of the Science of Judaism in Nineteenth-Century Germany; edited by Reimund Leicht and Gad Freudenthal, Leiden; Boston, Brill, 2012, p. 428; A. Salah, Lepistolario di Marco Mortara, p. 126; A. Salah, La biblioteca di Marco Mortara, pp. 152-153, 155.

[13] Solomon Marcus Schiller-Szinessy, Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts Preserved in the University Library, Cambridge, Volume 1, Cambridge, Cambridge University library, 1876, pp. 38-39, 43-44, 101-115, 221-226, 241-244, nos. 27, 30-31, 43, 69, 72, and Volume II, 1878, pp. 72-76, no. 93.

[14] Šemu’el Ḥay mi-Lavolṭah, Toledot ha-ḥakam Šimšon Kohen Modon z.ṣ.l. iš Manṭuah (“Story of the late wise Šimšon Kohen Modon, man of Mantua”), “Kerem Ḥemed”, II, 1836, p. 114 [in Hebrew].

[15] Edizioni ebraiche dei secoli XVI-XIX, pp. 3, 8-9, nos. 2, 15, in La biblioteca della comunità ebraica di Verona. Il fondo ebraico; a cura di Daniela Bramati … [et al.]; sotto la direzione scientifica di Crescenzo Piattelli, Giuliano Tamani, Verona, Biblioteca civica, 1999; Archivio Digitale della Comunità Ebraica di Mantova. Registro 2. Morti dal 1769 al 1815, < REG001024;REG025042&sottogruppo=REG002&offset=>, Registro 4. Nati dal 1770 al 1847, <http://;REG025042& sottogruppo=REG004&offset=0>, Registro 9. Nati dal 1750 al 1775, <http://digiebraico.;REG025042&sottogruppo= REG009&offset=0>, Registro 17. Morti dal 1797 al 1847, <;REG025042&sottogruppo=REG017&offset=0>, Registro 34. Registro comunità A-L, letter D, plates nos. 4 and 7, < =registro&op=esplora_ric&gruppo=REG001024;REG025042&sottogruppo=REG034&offset=0>, Registro 42. Matrimoni 1773 – 1815 / Popolazione 1774 – 1815, < registro&op=esplora_ric&gruppo=REG001024;REG025042&sottogruppo=REG042&offset=0>; Budapest, Library and Information Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, ms. Kaufmann A 481, pp. 133-135, 141, 143-144, 215.

[16] Biographical details are available in Daniel Jütte, Das Zeitalter des Geheimnisses. Juden, Christen und die Ökonomie des Geheimen (1400–1800), Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011, pp. 171-321.

[17] Shlomo Simonsohn, History of the Jews in the Duchy of Mantua, Jerusalem, Kiryath Sepher, 1977, pp. 347 (note 103), 477-478 (note 513); Archivio Digitale della Comunità Ebraica di Mantova, Sezione Antica. Etica. Volume III. Libro VI, pp. 384-385, < REP001010&sottogruppo=REP003&offset=0>.

[18] Adolf Brüll, “Rabinowitz, Raphael Nathan”, pp. 186-187, in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, LIII, Leipzig, Duncker & Humblot, 1907; I. Ormos, pp. 141, 157.

[19] Archivio Digitale Della Comunità Ebraica Di Mantova. Sezione Antica. Etica; Volume III, Libro VI, pp. 8-9, Sezione Antica. Filza 238, cartella 5, < gruppo=FIL238>, Registro 9. Nati dal 1750 al 1775, Registro 16. Morti dal 1816 al 1838, <http://digiebraico.;REG025042&sottogruppo= REG016&offset=0>, Registro 17. Morti dal 1797 al 1847, Registro 18. Morti dal 1750 al 1769, <;REG025042 &sottogruppo=REG018&offset=0>.

[20] Vittore Colorni, La corrispondenza fra nomi ebraici e nomi locali nella prassi dell’ebraismo italiano, p. 695, in his Judaica minora. Saggi sulla storia dell’ebraismo italiano dall’antichità all’età moderna, Milano, Giuffrè, 1983.

[21] Archivio Digitale della Comunità Ebraica di Mantova, Sezione Antica. Etica; Volume III, Libro VI, p. 82.

[22] Francesco Novati, Scrittori e possessori di codici, “Il Bibliofilo”, III, 1882, 3, pp. 38-41. A Jewish use of this Italian tiritera is readable for instance on f. 291v of Cod. Parm. 1872 at the Palatina Library of Parma.

Paleography Workshop May 2023 Call for Applicants

Inscription showing ownership of a copy of Isaac ben Moses Arama’s Akedat Yitshak (1522, Salonika) by Moshe Balsani in Morocco in the 16th century.


Footprints: Jewish Books through Time and Place, in conjunction with the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, invites applicants for participation in a two-day workshop in New York City devoted to the study of Hebrew paleography after the inception of print.

This two-day intensive workshop in New York (Monday morning May 21, 2023 through Tuesday afternoon May 22) will offer training in paleography and the analysis of manuscript annotations in printed books. The workshop will give preference to students and early career professionals, but senior and mid-career scholars and librarians are also eligible.

During this workshop, participants will engage in an intensive study of early modern and nineteenth-century Sephardi and Mizrahi Hebrew hands. This workshop will be led by Dr. Noam Sienna, a specialist in early modern and modern North African Jewish history and the history of Jewish material texts in the Islamic world. Participants will also be introduced to the Footprints provenance project and trained in entering evidence of the movement of Hebrew books in this period into the Footprints database, using new paleography skills. The workshop will take place at JTS and will make use of materials from the newly reopened JTS library.

This workshop is the second in a series of sessions for training in reading handwriting in Hebrew characters from the early modern period, following a workshop in 2020 on early modern Ashkenazic hands. Participants from that workshop are eligible to apply but there is no requirement of having participated previously as this is a stand-alone workshop.

There is no charge for the workshop for those accepted to the program. Those accepted, however, must commit to full attendance for the full duration of the two days. Participants must also commit to contributing to the Footprints project (see below) and becoming (if they are not already) on-going participants in the Footprints project as contributors of findings to the database in the course of their own research. For more information on the Footprints project, see here:

Participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging, but subsidies are available based on need as funds allow, with priority for students and early-career professionals. Kosher meals will be provided during the workshop. Space is limited.

To apply, please send a letter of interest including current and future research projects, and a current CV. In your letter of interest, please explain how the workshop will benefit your scholarship and also identify a particular collection or library of early modern books that you intend to study and contribute data from as a collaborator in the Footprints project.

Those requesting subsidies should also send an itemized budget for travel and lodging, including other funds available and applied for. Graduate students, please list the name and email for one reference. Send material (and questions about the program) to:

Deadline for applications:  Monday January 23, 2023

Support for this workshop and the training program has been provided by the American Academy of Jewish Research, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Columbia University, CUNY Graduate Center (Center for Jewish Studies), Fordham University (Center for Judaic Studies), Northwestern University (Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies), Princeton University (Program in Judaic Studies), Rutgers University (Department of Jewish Studies), University of Pennsylvania (Jewish Studies Program), University of Pittsburgh (Jewish Studies Program), and Washington University in St. Louis (Department of Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Studies).

Research Fellow/Cataloger for Footprints/JTS Venetian imprints

The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary seeks a Research Fellow/Cataloger to catalog and research sixteenth-century Venetian imprints in the collection as part of a collaboration with Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place. This is a part-time, grant-funded position for 10 months.

The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary holds the foremost collection of Judaica and Hebraica in the Western Hemisphere, with a collection of approximately 400,000 volumes including significant special collections, a comprehensive general collection, and large digital collections. The Library serves the students and faculty of the institution in addition to the international community of scholars in Jewish studies and related areas. 

Description of the Position

To catalog and research early printed Hebraica and Judaica books from Venice. Catalog entries will be included in the JTS Library catalog and provenance information will be included in the Footprints database.


The Research Fellow/Cataloger serves as an integral part of the special collections and processing teams in the library.  The Research Fellow will be responsible for:

  • Descriptive cataloging and provenance research for 375 sixteenth-century Hebrew books and Judaica in other languages printed in Venice. 
  • Working with OCLC and utilizing national cataloging standards (RDA and LCSH). 
  • Troubleshooting and seeking solutions with bibliographic control, controlled vocabulary, and database issues. 
  • Entering data to the Footprints database.

Minimum Requirements

  • ALA-accredited MLS/MLIS degree or MA-level study in Jewish studies or the equivalent.  
  • Academic background  in Jewish Studies and fluency in reading Hebrew. 
  • Familiarity in current Library cataloging standards and practices, RDA, LCSH, MARC21, LC romanization standards. 
  • Knowledge of and experience in standard rare book cataloging practices.
  • Familiarity with early modern Hebrew paleography. 
  • Ability to work creatively and effectively in a team environment and independently. 
  • Excellent organizational and time-management skills.
  • Ability to communicate orally and in writing.   

Preferred Requirements

  • One-year cataloging experience.  
  • Knowledge of Italian and/or Latin.


$25,000 for part-time position without benefits.

For more information about the position and project, please contact Marjorie Lehman (, Michelle Chesner (, or Naomi Steinberger (

To apply, please send a letter of inquiry, CV, and the names of two references to: by June 1, 2022.

The Whereabouts of a Hebrew Incunabulum from the 1912 Ludwig Rosenthal Katalog: Footprints, Facebook, and Crowdsourcing (Guest Post)

Haim Gottschalk is a Hebraica and Judaica cataloger at the Library of Congress, currently working on the LC’s collection of Hebrew incunabula. He is also entering provenance data for the incunabula into Footprints. The views in this blog post are not representative of the Library of Congress or its staff.

In June of 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which bills itself as the “definitive record of the English language”, added the word “Crowdsourcing” to its lexicon. The OED defined the word as “the practice of obtaining information or services by soliciting input from a large number of people, typically via the internet and often without offering compensation.” The word itself was coined by Jeff Howe of Wired Magazine by compounding two nouns – “crowd” and “sourcing”. The word was popularized in the title of his 2006 article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing.” “Crowdsourcing” is seen as a derivative of the word “outsourcing” (“Evolution of Crowdsourcing: Potential Data Protection, Privacy and Security Concerns under the New Media Age” by Buddlehadeb Halder. In Democracia Digital e Governo Eletrônico, Florianópolis, no. 10, p. 377-393, 2014. P. 378-379).

Although the word itself might be new, the concept is not. The key concept is the tapping into “a large crowd of people” for input. One of the earliest examples of tapping into a large crowd of people was the 1714 contest by the British government who was looking for a way of calculating a ship’s longitude. Over the centuries other projects similarly involved crowd-sourcing. In 2001 Wikipedia was launched, where information could be (and still is) added and updated by many people. In 2020, one can argue that the pursuit of a COVID-19 vaccine is also a form of crowdsourcing, albeit at a company level. However, for the purpose of the blog entry, the definition that will be applied is one by Darren C. Brabham who states in his book Crowdsourcing (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series, 2013. P. xxi. that crowdsourcing is “an online, distributed problem-solving and production model that leverages the collective intelligence of online communities to serve specific organizational goals.” Brabham goes on to say that one major factor to the online environment is speed and that “messages, and the exchange of ideas, can travel so fast along its channels … therefore accelerate creative development” (p. 12). The second definition is only in reference to online communities and to serve a specific organizational goal, while the first definition is too broad, almost akin with the call for help being thrown in to the wind.  Our second definition works well with the various social media sites serving as hubs for crowdsourcing. And I would like to add, has allowed for user-to-user interaction.

And this brings us to Footprints and Facebook.

I became a Footprint contributor in October of 2020, the same time I started cataloging Hebrew incunabula at the Library of Congress. Cataloging a work into an online database, regardless of how many copies (or in our case, the number of owners a specific copy of work had), collapses all data into one bibliographic record. The Footprints Project database, on the other hand, identifies each owner of a specific copy of a book and gives each owner their own Footprint record. In the semantic web environment, each Footprint record is connected to that specific copy of the book, thus showing a relationship between the copy and each owner. I was learning all of this as I was learning to catalog the incunabula and learning how to input data into Footprints. Moreover, I was learning to pay closer attention to the marginalia and to look for clues concerning provenance.


Then one day in early November …

I was cataloging a 1487 printing of Immanuel of Rome’s commentary to the Book of Proverbs printed by Joseph ben Jacob Guzenhauser, the Ashkenazi in Naples, Italy. This particular copy was obtained by the Library of Congress from Otto Vollbehr through an act of Congress in 1930. Other than some marginalia, the book itself contained no owner identification — at least none that was obvious. There was a catalog record for the book, which was created by Vollbehr.  In looking over the book, I noticed a label in German. My German is nicht gut. I decided to post a question on a Facebook group, Hebrew Codicology and Paleography, with the hopes of someone being able to help me make sense of what the label said. Then the magic of crowdsourcing started.

My post was posted to the group at 10:58am. At 11:02am came the first response – reading the German as “Hebr. Druck. no. 30”. At 11:04am, just two minutes later, a second response appeared– saying the label read “Hebr. Ink. Nr. 30”. I felt bad that the German did not give me a named owner. However, Michelle Margolis responded at 11:56am saying that this “no. 30” did come from someone’s collection. A few hours later, at 3:37pm, Dan Polakovic responded with “Mystery solved, see Nr 30” and a provided a link to Ludwig Rosenthal Antiquariat’s 1912 catalog at the Goethe University Library in Frankfurt. There was excitement in the air. The clincher came when I posted the next image of the handwritten text on the inside front cover of the book at 3:44pm. And everything seemed to match. The key words in the book “Blatt 1 handschriftlich” matched the wording in the catalog. The first leaf in the book is a manuscript within the book, replacing the missing first printed leaf.

Within hours in one day, I went from not knowing the provenance of this particular copy to realizing (or perhaps being made to realize) the Library of Congress owned a copy sold by Ludwig Rosenthal in 1912.

In 2017, an initial record for the Rosenthal copy was created in Footprints. In 2020, I was able to complete this Footprints record. While Facebook and the Facebook group are examples of crowdsourcing, the Footprints project “relies in part on networked collaboration” (“Old Texts and New Media: Jewish Books on the Move and a Case for Collaboration” by: Michelle Chesner, Marjorie Lehman, Adam Shear, and Joshua Teplitsky in Digital Humanities, Libraries, and Partnerships: A Critical Examination of Labor, Network, and Community. Chandos Elsevier, 2018. P. 61 – 73. Unlike library OPACs, where the cataloging is controlled by the individual library, Footprints is beyond the borders of the library, thus allowing others to contribute and also to finish a record once started by someone else.

Between crowdsourcing and networked collaboration, the origin of one book is identified, another footprint is accounted for, and another contribution is made to provenance scholarship.

Updates: Teaching and Pathmapper

Things may have seemed quiet for the last few months on the Footprints front while the development team and the co-directors were all busily attending to some new upgrades behind the scenes.  Now that they are live, we are thrilled to tell you about them.

Teaching with Footprints is a new tab on the site that describes how Footprints can be used in the classroom.  We pulled together many examples (and a few sample teaching tools) on how teachers in diverse fields can use Footprints for a hands-on classroom experience (whether in-person or virtual) . The Teaching page includes “Tips and Strategies for Using Footprints in the Classroom” as well as some sample assignments and handouts. As always, please be in touch if we can be of assistance as you plan your syllabus.

Pathmapper is a new upgrade to our site, currently in alpha mode (with a few more updates in store over the next couple of months).  Pathmapper allows the user to map search results across the globe. In the example below, the Pathmapper shows the journey of nearly 600 imprints from the 15th century (incunabula) and the journeys they traveled. When used for specific books or libraries, the Pathmapper has the potential to visualize the movement of ideas, people, and of course, books, thus making it an excellent addition to our teaching toolkit as well.

In the coming months, we will be posting more about both the Teaching and Pathmapper sections, but for now, we are very excited to announce that they are now live and ready to use!

Please be in touch if you have any questions issues with these new functions.

Guest Post: Revising Popper: Some Considerations (Fabrizio Quaglia)

Ed. note: When we began our work on Footprints, we quickly realized that William Popper’s Censorship of Hebrew Books was going to be critical to identifying expurgators, and the places and dates where they operated.  Although over one hundred years old, Popper’s seminal work identifies many censors by their dates and locations, and includes images of their signatures in printed books. Kate Cornelius, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, thus created a spreadsheet of the censors found in Popper, and we refer to it constantly in Footprints research. Over time, though, we have found errors and omissions in Popper, and have been able to correct them in the spreadsheet. Fabrizio Quaglia has been a tremendous help in updating our “digital Popper,” and below writes about what he has discovered along the way.

A book is a physical object but not an isolated object. Beyond its content there may be a treasure trove, breathing with the air of time and exuding with the hands of its readers whose written or stamped traces are visible on its pages. The study of provenance of a book can reveal a way of thinking and even dreaming. In case of Hebrew and Judaic books it also assumes the peculiar value of testimony; a faded name in a purchase note written on a torn page can be the only persisting legacy of a lifetime, and library stamps and bookstore stickers often hide stories of suffering and painful migration. Examining such a paper heritage provides new sources to historians of Jewish communities, to scholars in general, to private collectors, and to paleographers, archivists and librarians. All of them should unite their skills, sharing their findings so to get better results.

A particular example of this kind of collaboration can be given by the centuries-long censorship of Hebrew texts, whose traces have come down to us. A historian of Jewish communities of Italy can take advantage of these annotations, discovering the reading habits of indidivuals and movements of a text from one nation to another. Ironically, “thanks” to censorship I detected the presence in Piedmont of an interest in Kabbalah often neglected or even denied. For this reason, it is important to determine correctly the date of a censor-mark.

Reading the signature of a Giovanni Antonio Costanzi or a Domenico Gerosolomitano we must remember that these revisors of Hebrew books were often converted rabbis that abandoned their faith and congregation for a zealous work of censor, sometimes combined to a teaching post where their task was to give to the Catholic church learning enough to convert Jews. The same Gerosolomitano, and also Renato da Modena and others, compiled manuals for the emendation of Hebrew books, where “dangerous” titles and words were detailed. The handwritten Sefer ha-ziqquq is a known example, but there are others as well. I detected a reference to a similar index used in Asti, Piedmont, in a signature belonging to friar Vincenzo de Matelica (born circa 1549), another apostate revisor (and former rabbi).

Some of these expurgators were reported in a fundamental book: The Censorship of Hebrew Books, published in New York in 1899. The work was the doctoral dissertation of William Popper (1874-1963). He was a student at Columbia University where he received degrees of A.B. in 1896, A.M. in 1897, and his Ph.D. in 1899. Professor of Semitic Languages at Berkeley, Popper was one of the greatest figures among American Orientalists, specializing in Hebrew and Arabic studies. The Censorship of Hebrew Books is the fruit of a deep research inside the collections at Columbia, and using the work of other Hebraists, putting in the appropriate context of the signatures he found. It is still deservedly used today as a primary reference book for scholars and librarians in USA, Europe and Israel, but it was written in a period when study of censors’ inscriptions was unavoidably limited to some libraries where photocopying (let alone scans) was not yet possible and few articles and catalogs circulated on Hebrew censorship; in addition his survey was restricted to the signatures he directly or indirectly knew. Above all, he worked in a definitely pre-Internet era. Year after year biographical information on censors has increased:  to name a few examples, we have since learned that:

Petrus de Trevio is also known as Pietro Pichi;

Renato da Modena’s name before he took religious orders was Renato Corradini;

“Gio. Monni” is friar Giovanni da Montefalcone, General Inquisitor of Modena, born Giovanni Ghermignani (d. 1599).

Sometimes we are able to add additional information about expurgators based on material that Popper did not see.  For example, Popper informs us of the stay of the monk Antonio Francesco Enriques as censor in Urbino in 1687.  But he was also in Alessandria as the censor in 1688I found his signature ending with “Aless[andri]a 1688” on several Hebrew manuscripts and books.

Most significantly, perhaps, Popper listed few Italian sources among the authorities he cites (mainly Abraham Berliner, Adolf Neubauer, Moritz Steinschneider and Leopold Zunz). The exceptions are Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi and Isidoro Bianchi’s book Sulle Tipografie Ebraiche di Cremona (printed in 1807). This might explain why his readings of censors’ notes are not always accurate. He studied and traveled in Europe and Near East, but perhaps he never learned Italian. Moreover, the Italian script of XVI-XVIII centuries is not simple to understand because of certain features in calligraphy and abbreviations, a fact that still causes difficulties. Lastly, some censor-marks he included did not belong to expurgators, as I will explain.

All this being said, we contemporaries are all dwarfs on the shoulders of Popper, because he explored an almost unknown land with few companions. Today one just presses a button on a keyboard to send a photos overseas with a blink of an eye. In a digital world it is much easier than before to decipher obscure words comparing and editing images and surfing the internet in search for related information. And websites like Footprints record and connect information on Ashkenazic, Sephardic, Italian and Oriental Hebrew ownership, on Italian, Russian and Polish censorship, as well as owners’ notes in French, Latin, German, and so forth.

For this reason, at the suggestion of Michelle Chesner, I have been compiling short bio-bibliographic records correcting several mistaken names in Popper.  I have been collecting information from published sources at my disposal (mostly in Italian and not well-known to the international scholarly community), checking the original signatures on scanned books and manuscripts, and adding some information on the activities of censors themselves. In some cases I discovered their real identity hidden under the religious dress. Here I will present only some abridged instances of my research among the revisors, inquisitors and notaries that Popper discussed (sometimes erroneously). Many of these findings also have been added to Footprints records.

Sometimes Popper’s interpretation of names comes quite close to the correct reading. Alexander Caius (per Popper) is Alessandro Cari. The correct reading of “Alexandro Cari” was already in The Jewish Encyclopedia, V, p. 652, s.v. “Censorship of Hebrew Books.” Antonio Maria Biscioni, Bibliothecae Mediceae-Laurentianae. Catalogus […] Tomus Primus codices orientales complectens, Florentiae, Ex Imperiali Typographio, 1752, p. 13, had already printed the Latin signature “Alixandro de Cari revedetor [revisor]” that he saw at the end of Cod.Plut.I.15. Moreover A.M. Biscioni, p. 57, indicating Cari’s approbation to Cod. Plut. I.57. In this case it had previously been noticed by Bernard de Montfaucon, Bibliotheca bibliothecarum manuscriptorum nova, I, Parisiis, Briasson, 1739, p. 242. Others have had readings that followed or echoed Popper’s:  Carlo Berneimer, Paleografia ebraica, Firenze, Olschki, 1924, pp. 180 and 399, called him “Alixandro de Cavi.”In Giulio Busi, Edizioni ebraiche del XVI secolo nelle biblioteche dell’Emilia Romagna, Bologna, Analisi, 1987, nos. 63 and 340, he is indexed as “Alixandro de Caij.”

Joseph Ciantas (who Popper inadvertently also called Cronti) is the Dominican friar Giuseppe Ciantes (1602-1670). A similar slight misinterpretation concerned the eighteenth-century friar Paracciani, who Popper read as “Parcicciani.” This name was already correctly reported in A. Berliner, Censur und Confiscation hebräischer Bücher im Kirchenstaate, Frankfurt a. M, J. Kaufmann, 1891, p. 30 (a source that Popper used). In Popper’s entry on “Girolamo da Durallano” the place of origin should be corrected to Durazzano (hence Girolamo da Durazzano), a small town in the province of Benevento in Campania (South Italy). It is an understandable mistake due to the way Girolamo wrote the letter z almost identical to the letter l. This has been corrected by Mauro Perani, Confisca e censura di libri ebraici a Modena fra Cinque e Seicento, in L’ Inquisizione e gli ebrei in Italia, a cura di Michele Luzzati, Bari, Laterza, 1994, pp. 312 and 319, note 75, but even recently I have seen online catalogs with “Durallano”. An image of his signature appears in Footprints. A few others:  “Hier. Carolus” is Girolamo Caratto, inquisitor at Asti from 1566 to 1589; Dionysus Sturlatus is Dionisio Sburlato, “Vic[ariu]s” (meaning “deputy”) of inquisitor Alessandro Longo in Mondovì (in the province of Cuneo in Piedmont). Bartolomeo Rocca di Præterino is Bartolomeo Rocca di Pralormo, inquisitor of Turin from 1588 to 1598 (as well as of Cuneo, Fossano and Nizza Monferrato, all Piedmontese towns).

Rocca di Pralormo’s censorship is often linked to that of friar “Paulus vicecomes”, whose Italian name was Paolo Visconte. He was born in Alessandria, or in some nearby towns in the diocese of Alessandria. “Vicecomes” is his surname and does not mean “vicarius” as Popper thought (p. 89, note 327).

A geographical mistake regards the above-mentioned Alessandro Longo. Popper wrote that he was revisor at Monreale, a place in Southern Piedmont near Asti. So he read in Friedrich H. Bischoff und Johann H. Möller, Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der alten, mittleren und neuen Geographie, Gotha, 1829, p. 763; where, however, it is called Mons Regalis – namely Montreale! Unfortunately the fact that Popper had turned the real name of this town into Monreale has created confusion with the Sicilian town where in truth in the years 1570-1606, when Longo was inquisitor, there were no Jews with books to be censored. For this reason I specified that “Montiregalis” is the old Latin name of Mondovì. This kind of misunderstanding generates a funny situation with respect to Vincenza Suppa. Vincenza is a female name and expurgation was a man’s world. In fact it is Vincenzo Suppa, a man who was “Regio censore in Livorno” from 1825 until 1832, when he was fired from his job for lack of zeal in censoring Italian political texts.

In other cases a well-known name hides under an invented one: Domenico Cacciatore is the 17th-century expurgator Giovanni Domenico Carretto, whose censor’s marks can be found in many Hebrew texts. Popper, who suspected what his true identity was, referred to an article in “Hebräische Bibliographie”, V, 1862, p. 76, note 13, which in turn referred (with similar doubts) to Die handschriftlichen hebräischen Werke der K.K. Hofbibliothek zu Wien, Wien, K.K. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1847, no. 13. Indeed, Popper and the author of the 1862 article were correct in being suspicious of the 1847 catalog which had mistaken the original “visto per me Gio. dominico carretto 1618” in Cod. Hebr. 28 of Austrian National Library, folio 400v. The correct reading can be found in Arthur Zacharias Schwarz, Die hebräischen Handschriften der Nationalbibliothek in Wien, Leipzig, Karl W. Hiersemann, 1925, no. 19.

It is understandable that Popper had troubles with some of the signatures that were more difficult to decipher like “Bernard[us] Nucetus not[ariu]s. SS. Officii Parmae”. Bernardo Noceto was an ecclesiastical notary who endorsed expurgation of Hebrew texts on behalf of the Inquisition in Parma, but Popper read him “Heuesas”. In fact, it was so misinterpreted in recent years as well: see Christie’s, New York, auction catalog Hebrew Printed Books. Duplicates from the Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Thursday 22 May, 1986, lots 38, 43, 44 (but without certainty in identification); and Edizioni ebraiche del XVI secolo del Centro Bibliografico dell’ebraismo italiano dell’Unione delle comunità ebraiche italiane. Catalogo, a cura di Amedeo Spagnoletto, Roma, Litos, 2007, nos. 30 (signed on 1619), 96a, 240. Another case concerns the preacher to the Roman Jews Gregorio Boncompagni degli Scarinci (d. 1688 at 77). Popper, at p. 139, no. 48, indicated him as Boncampagno Marcelleno, and at p. 145, no. 118, as Marcellino.  His signature “Gregorius Boncompanius expurgator deputatus” is abbreviated, however, in Casanatense Library of Rome, Ms. 2925, f. 162r; see Gustavo Sacerdote, Catalogo dei codici ebraici della Biblioteca Casanatense, no. 61 in Cataloghi dei codici Orientali di alcune Biblioteche d’Italia, VI, Firenze, Stabilimento tipografico fiorentino, 1878. Even more complex is “Nico. de Sorzone.” Popper misread, as did A. Neubauer, Catalogue, I, no. 655, the censorship in Ms. Oxford, Mich. 8. They reported it as “Nico. de Sorzome 1602.” But I have been able to see, thanks to a scanned reproduction, the correct inscription. Thus, on f. 168v, partly blurred, I read “corretto p[er] me gio[vanni] domi[nico] di comissione del M.[olto] R.[everendo] P.[adre] uic:o [= vicario] de sarzana a li 12 feb.[brai]o 1602”; below, partly crossed “Ita e[tiam] fr’ Ang[elu]s Capillus vic[ariu]s s[anc]ti officij”. Hence I found out that the real censor was the unknown Giovanni Domenico da Lodi (Lodi is in Lombardy). He wrote “a” in a very similar way to “o”, consequently Sorzome/Sorzone was intended for Sarzana. Sarzana is a town near La Spezia in Liguria, a seat of a vicariate of Holy Office, whose person in charge (a priest collaborator of the bishop) evidently ordered Giovanni Domenico to expurgate Hebrew texts. The aforementioned Holy Office deputy Angelo Capello was probably the man who had to supervise the expurgations made by Giovanni Domenico in that diocese.  Capello was from Brescia as we learn from his declarations of his birthplace–“de Brixia” in other censored Hebrew manuscripts.

Some censors named by Popper simply never existed, but were created by misunderstanding: Clemente Carretto was actually (once again) Giovanni Domenico Carretto, and Jacob Gentiline was a wrong reading of Jacob Geraldino. In other cases, Popper names real people as censors who were not: the very famous French essayist Michel de Montaigne actually existed but he was not a Hebrew expurgator; Popper wrongly put him in his alphabetical list of censors at the end of his volume. Apparently he read Hermann Vogelstein and Paul Rieger, Geschichte der Juden in Rom, II, Berlin, Mayer & Müller, 1895, p. 172, who read Montaigne’s Journal de Voyage en Italie. Montaigne actually wrote that he attended “a sermon [by Andrea De Monti – he really was a censor] on the Jews on a Saturday afternoon in the Lent period of 1580 in S. Trinità de’ Monti on a Saturday afternoon. He praises the preacher’s keen reasoning, his knowledge of rabbinical literature and the languages used for it.” (Translation from the German is my own).

Popper also twice names a figure named “Mesnil” but knew nothing about him. I was able to discover that he was not an expurgator but a French lawyer at the court of Louis XIV: Gabriel-Jacques Mesnil (1717-1769). The annotation affixed by the official in charge of confiscating the assets of the Jesuits in their sites in Paris, “Paraphé au désir de l’arrêt du 5 Juillet 1763. Mesnil” (“Signed to the desire of the judgment of July 5, 1763. Mesnil”) can be read, although with difficulty, on many manuscripts (I saw some where the note was marginally and vertically inscribed). That sentence did not refer to their expurgation but simply attested that a thousand Western and Oriental (some of them in Hebrew) manuscripts had been taken away to a new destination (abroad).

In MS Oxford-Bodleian Canonici, Or. 90, I read the Italian inscription: “Jo Leone”, followed by the Latin sentence “die 13 Jan[ua]rii 1567 Heb[raeo] Leo recog[nov]it” on f. 2r. Popper found this entry in A. Neubauer, Catalogue of the Hebrew manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, I, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1886,  no. 634, and assumed that Leo was a Jewish censor. But more likely, this means that a Jew named Leone owned the Oxonian manuscript that he “corrected [recognovit],” thus obeying the order of an Inquisitor who in turn reviewed this manuscript during the winter of 1567.  The Inquisitor’s signature immediately follows that of Leone.

Many examples here show the interaction among written sources and scanned images of censors’ marks described at the beginning of my contribution to this blog. Bringing together these scattered sources allowed me to discover the identity of Popper’s “Jos. Parius.” In a sixteenth-century book at Columbia, Popper read “P[ate]r Jos. Franc. Pari[us] Carpi s[anct]ti officij 1604.”  Instead, the correct reading is “Fr[ater] Jo[anni]s Franc[iscu]s Mala[za]pius s[anct]ti offici Vic.[ariu]s”, followed by an unreadable date. Some time ago G. Busi, Libri ebraici a Mantova. I. Le edizioni del XVI secolo nella biblioteca della comunità ebraica, Fiesole, Cadmo, 1996, no. 25, read another footprint of this censor on f. 62v of a 1552 Venetian Hebrew book: “Fr[ater] Io[anni]s Franc[iscu]s Mala[…] Carpi […] 1613”. I ordered a photo of the original page from the Teresiana Library of Mantua and so I found out that it says “fr.[ater] Io[anni]s Franc[iscu]s Malazapius Carpi s[anct]ti  officij Vic.[ariu]s concedit ut […] Carpi [… …. … …] 1613”. It helped me to identify “Parius” as the Minorite Giovanni Francesco Malazappi. He was not properly a Hebrew censor but a theologian, guardian and deputy of Holy Office in Carpi (Modena). In March 1600, Malazappi compiled an inventory of books of his convent in order to to control what friars read, proving his presence in the field of the ubiquitous ecclesiastical censure.

I hope that one day a network will be created, as wide and open as possible to every scholar of involved disciplines, that will bring together databases such as Footprints and also connect them to the institutions that own the material, so that all records can be updated with current research and discoveries.

Footprints and the Duke of Sussex (Augustus, 1773-1843)


The First Duke of Sussex, Royal Society portrait, circa 1838  (via wikimedia commons

The April 20, 2020 New Yorker has a fascinating article by Rebecca Mead on everyone’s favorite ex-royals, Meghan and Harry, that compares their unconventional relationship with the rest of the royal family to that of the first Duke of Sussex (Harry is the second Duke), Prince Augustus, sixth son of King George III.  If you read the article, you were probably drawn, like me, to one of the really interesting facts about Augustus–that he “amassed a large library of valuable books and manuscripts at his apartments in Kensington Palace” and that “he owned a collection of sixteenth-century Hebrew Bibles, and studied them with a tutor.”  Mead leaves off here talking about Augustus’ library and his early Hebrew printed books to turn to his two marriages contracted without royal consent (and thus semi-scandalous by early nineteenth century standards).

Thomas Pettigrew (without the mummies) (Wellcome collection;

The New Yorker doesn’t have footnotes, or Mead might have referred you to the catalogues of Augustus’ book collection to see the extent of his collection yourself.  In 1827, the Duke’s personal librarian, Thomas Pettigrew (1791-1865) crafted a two-volume Bibliotheca Sussexiana , a partial catalogue with notes on the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin Bibles, which he followed up with a second volume in 1839, covering the Bibles in other languages including not only English, German, French, and Italian but also Coptic, Arabic, Slavonic, and so forth.   In the preface to that volume, Pettigrew expresses his regret that he wasn’t able to complete a catalogue of the entire vast library or even just the biblical portions in a timely way:  “I could have wished to have been able to devote my time to the completion of this memorial of a portion of its entirety; but my first duty has been exercised upon objects of a different nature, and my professional avocations demand all the time it is in my power to command.”  Indeed, Pettigrew was a busy man:  he was also a surgeon, anatomy professor, freemason, antiquarian, and book collector in his own right.  The “objects of a different nature” were most likely understood by those in his social circles to mean mummies.  He was Victorian England’s best-known amateur Egyptologist and was famous for throwing parties where he would unroll and then dissect mummies for his guests.  A few years later, others got to work on another catalogue of a large part of the collection, published also under the Biblioteca Susexiana title (now a brand?) in 1844.

So what happened to the Duke’s 50,000 books and manuscripts?  They were actually locked away in the Kensington Palace attic in crates labeled “property of the Duke of Sussex” and presented to Harry and Meghan after their wedding. The books were supposed to be shipped last month to the new library that the former royals are building at their vacation home on Vancouver Island, but the pandemic is holding things up.

Had you going, right?  Actually, the books were sold at auction in 1844 (the occasion for that other catalogue) and are now scattered in library collections around the world.

The Duke and his collection had made two appearances in Footprints before Mead’s article caught my eye and led me to take a closer look. One footprint tells us that Augustus’ interest in Hebraica went beyond Bibles.  Indeed, the Prince-Duke was keeping up with relatively recently published rabbinic works:  his library included a copy of responsa and novellae on the Talmud tractate Rosh Hashanah by Judah Loeb Margolioth (1747-1811), rabbi in Frankfurt der Oder and author of halakhic and ethical treatises.  This copy of Sefer Korban Reshit printed in 1777 made its way from the Duke of Sussex to renowned Judaica bibliographer Shimon Brisman who eventually sold it to Washington University in St. Louis.  The Duke of Sussex’s book plate from this volume can be found here, from an on-line exhibit of the Brisman Collection at Washington University.

Bibliotheca Sussexiana: the Extensive And Valuable Library of His Royal Highness the Late Duke of Sussex, K.G. &c. &c. … Which Will Be Sold by Auction by Messrs. Evans, No. 93, Pall Mall. (London, 1844) University of California copy (via Hathitrust)

I wanted to see how the Duke’s auctioneers (Messrs Evans, no 93, Pall Mall) described this book so I turned to the published catalog of 1844.  I was surprised not to find it there. Although this first volume of Biblioteca Sussexiana purportedly includes all of his Bible and theological works, it also lists over 200 works by “rabbinical authors.”  Yet Margolioth’s Sefer Korban Reshit seems to be missing.  Although two later volumes were meant to be published (one covering manuscripts and the other covering “History, Antiquities, Topography, &c), these are not extant.  The upshot:  we can’t say for sure whether Augustus’ copy of Sefer Korban Reshit was sold in 1844.

Another thought comes to mind:  most of the “rabbinical” works listed in the 1844 catalog are by famous Jewish–and Christian–authors who were part of a standard Hebraist curriculum.  Sefer Korban Reshit was a fairly recent book and the author was not  one that would have been well-known among the gentleman bibliophiles of 1840s London.  Could this be the tip of an iceberg of recent seforim of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century acquired by the bibliomaniac and Hebrew superfan Duke and then sold off at some later point in large lots to Jewish bookdealers in less fashionable parts of London?   The two other pre-Brisman footprints indeed suggest that this book-copy spent some time away from the rarefied world of Kensington Palace in Jewish circles:  The first of these derives from a book stamp in Russian from 1837 with the name “V.A.M. Ravin.”  A censor?  A Jewish owner?  (For now, the closure of the Washington University Library in the pandemic prevents further examination.)   Did the Duke acquire this late in his life–after 1837?  or was it “deaccessioned” by Augustus and Pettigrew in 1837?  We also have a signature of an “Aharon Zitits” who  owned this book at some point.  Before 1837 or after 1844?  More work remains to be done here.

bookplates from the NYPL copy of the Bologna Pentatuech

NYPL **P (Bible. O.T. Pentateuch. Hebrew. 1482) photo:

The second footprint is more in line with the Duke’s interest in early printed Bibles:  here is a footprint where we can see his bookplate in a copy of the Bologna Pentateuch of 1482 at the New York Public Library, one of the earliest printings of the Hebrew Bible, the first with vocalization and the first  with Rashi’s commentary.  And it’s a  book that still has a wow factor:  Christie’s sold another copy of this in 2014 for $3.87 million. We know from  another bookplate in the NYPL copy of this book that this was also owned by William Stuart who had a library at Tempsford Hall, a country home in Bedfordshire, England.  Eventually the book was sold again to the Lenox Library, one of the predecessors of the current NYPL.

The Duke apparently obtained his copy of the Bologna Pentateuch from Luigi Celotti (c. 1765-1846), an abbot turned bookdealer originally from Venice. Celotti was famous (or infamous) for selling looted books and art in Venice, Florence, and London.  In 1825, Samuel Sotheby, the forerunner of the famous auction house, handled multiple sales for Celotti, including a sale of his Hebrew, Greek, and Latin manuscripts, his Italian and Spanish printed books, and manuscripts (including Hebrew) from the libraries of Matteo Luigi Canonici and the Saibante family.  None of these seem to be the source of this copy, so we need some more research to track down the earlier provenance of the Celotti-Sussex-Tempsford Hall-NYPL Bologna Pentateuch copy and the point at which Sussex obtained the book from Celotti.

We might also need some more research to figure out the post-Sussex provenance as well–and here is where things get even stranger:  once again, I could not find this book in either the 1827 Pettigrew work or the 1844 auction catalog. So we have evidence of two books that undoubtedly belonged to the Duke (the bookplates are pretty clear), but left the Kensington Palace library in some other way than the prominent auction held after the Duke’s death.  I think my scenario above for Sefer Korban Reshit is plausible.  But we need a different explanation here.  And right now I don’t have one.

So, more to come.  On one side, we can enter “historical copy” footprints from the Biblioteca Sussexiana volumes; on the other end, I expect we will find more from this collection now in various library collections as we look at extant books, current library catalogs and later auction catalogues.  We also have at least two data points to suggest that books were being sold off through other venues than the Evans auction house.

Even more mysteries:  I took a short break from writing this blog post to enter the 1844 sales footprint for the first pre-1800 Hebrew Bible listed in the Biblioteca Sussexiana catalog, lot #2.  This is a Pentateuch with Five Megillot and Haftarot, printed by Foa in Sabbioneta in 1557.  The 1844 auction catalog tells us it was printed on vellum and was previously owned by “Rev. T. Williams.”   Thanks to social media quick help from an expert on where Hebrew books were coming and going in the nineteenth century, Noam Sienna, I was able to find that the library of the Reverend Theodore Williams was auctioned in April 1827.  A copy of that auction catalogue now at the New York Public Library (and digitized here) even has  handwritten notations of buyers and prices paid!

detail from NYPL copy (via Hathitrust) of A Catalogue of the Library of the Rev. Theodore Williams:…[London, 1827.]

The buyer of this book is listed there as “Grenville”–almost certainly a reference to Thomas Grenville (1755-1846), a prominent politician and diplomat also famous for his enormous book collection. When the childless Grenville died in 1846, he left his collection to the British Museum.  (His collecting career and library are described by Barry Taylor in Libraries and Library Collections, published a few years ago by the British Library.)  Since we know the book was later in the library of the Duke of Sussex and Grenville was known for buying books, not for giving them away or selling them, perhaps this catalog inscription was in error or perhaps Grenville was acting as an agent for the Duke at the sale. Indeed, in the 1842 catalog of his collection, Biblioteca Grenvilliana, the work is not found, which makes the Grenville-as-agent or sales-catalog-annotator-was-careless theories even more plausible. (Or maybe Sussex, Pettigrew, Grenville, William Stuart of Thompson Hall, and other notable bibliophiles just gathered regularly and traded their rare Hebrew books after a fun evening of unwrapping mummies?)

What about the current whereabouts for this copy that went from Theodore Williams maybe to Thomas Grenville and definitely to the Duke of Sussex and not the British Library?  I have a very preliminary candidate:  Cambridge University Library’s catalog lists a copy of this “on vellum” but without provenance information.  So let the hunt begin!








Footprints and the Study of Early Modern Paleography

Participants in the workshop on early modern Ashkenazic paleography

Over the course of our work on Footprints, we have found many inscriptions that we could not read.  Where possible, we turned to more advanced colleagues for help, and when not, we simply added “can you help” to the footprint record, so others might be able to help us decipher the writing.  We realized, though, that if the reading of early modern Hebrew handwriting was something that was difficult to us, it might be difficult for others as well.  It was with this in mind that we decided to initiate a workshop series on early modern Hebrew paleography.

We decided to begin with Ashkenazic script, with a focus on Central and Northern Europe.  We were very fortunate that the master teacher Dr. Edward Fram, of Ben Gurion University could come from Israel to teach our class, and our call for applicants was met by a wonderfully positive response.

A quill and ink ready for writing

The workshop took place this past Sunday through Tuesday, at both the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University, and it was co-sponsored by many organizations that recognized the deep need for this training, including both Jewish Studies programs and larger institutions (the full list is noted at the end of this post).

Day 1 began with an unexpected note: Dr. Fram handed out quills and ink to all of the participants and asked them to write the aleph bet.  Writing with the same tools as were used hundreds of years ago taught us how and why certain letters would appear in the way that they did.

We then moved straight into the texts, reading and deciphering the various forms: from the “blotchy mem” to the “descending kuf,” the participants learned the key factors in identifying letters written in early modern Ashkenaz.

Dr. Fram describes how to decipher a particularly difficult section of a pinkas, or record book.

Sunday evening featured the four Footprints co-directors discussing “From Scroll to Screen: Revolutions in Jewish Book History,” which addressed the past, present, and future of the Jewish book. (A video of the discussion is available at the link above.)

Monday morning we continued reading the texts. We learned about abbreviations and the best resources to decipher them, as well as common phrases that are peppered throughout the text. Also important was the frequent mixing of Germanic terms with Hebrew ones, and the fact that Hebrew spelling and grammar was certainly not standardized in the way that we might expect it to be today.

The participants then learned about the Footprints project, and got a chance to try out their new skills by working directly with books from Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  After learning how to use the database, participants entered footprints directly into the system, working with each other to identify difficult inscriptions.

Tuesday was the final day of the workshop, when we reviewed the concepts that we had learned, and everyone got a chance to read directly from the manuscripts, showing just how much we had learned in a short time.

We wish to acknowledge the generous support of this event’s co-sponsors:

  • American Academy of Jewish Research
  • Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School
  • Center for Jewish Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center
  • Center for Jewish Studies, Fordham University
  • Department of Jewish Studies, Rutgers University
  • Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University
  • Jewish Studies Program, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jewish Studies Program, University of Pittsburgh
  • Jewish Theological Seminary Library
  • Program in Judaic Studies, Princeton University
  • Rabbis Ben Zion and Baruch Micah Bokser Memorial Fund

Happy Anniversary, Footprints! (Or, “that’s not a knife, this is a….book”)

Happy Anniversary, Footprints!

Footprints wasn’t born in a day.  Before the website went live a team of planners, coders, and researchers spent years preparing.  But the website made its first appearance on November 13, 2014 with the upload of a Shehitot u-vedikot (owned in Beirut in 1862).

In honor of our fifth anniversary, we decided to advance the entries on that very first item.  The Shehitot u-vedikot has been of interest to me for some time now.  First composed in the fifteenth century by Jacob Weil (d. ca. 1456, a student of Jacob Molin), the book outlines the laws of kosher slaughtering, and was first printed in Prague in 1533.  It was something of a bestseller of the early modern period in Europe, gaining layers of commentary in subsequent publications in Krakow, Venice, Prague, Basle, Amsterdam, and beyond.  A search in the bibliography of the Hebrew book for this title yields 174 results, with 130 of those books printed before the year 1800.  That’s nearly an average of a printing every two years!

Opp 4o545 copy of Shehitot u-vedikot (Basle, 1611), held by the Bodleian Libraries.

I first grew interested in these books when I came across multiple copies of them in the Oppenheim collection of the Bodleian Libraries (the full story of that collection is the subject of the recent book Prince of the Press), and found them to be rich with signatures, certificates, and even the occasional doodle, perhaps at the hand of a student whose attention wandered during his training (the trainees would have almost always have been young men).  My favorite “footprint” appears in Opp. 4o 605(1), and is reproduced here (it also appears in the book, on p. 31).

Opp. 4o 605(1), copy of Sefer Tikkunei Zevah (Prague, 1604), held by the Bodleian Libraries.

Copies of Shehitot u-vedikot can be found in numerous library collections, and evidence of their historical use appears in inscriptions, the observations of Christian Hebraists, and the catalogs of modern booksellers.  Tracking copies of the book offers a tantalizing example of the quantitative power of Footprints to complement, enhance, and shine a different light on our understanding of bibliography, book culture, and Jewish life more generally.  Following this work we can see the power of a single author to become the authority on the topic of kosher meat production, and we can witness different centers vie for domination over the market (both economically and intellectually).  We also get to see the use of books designed not for elite figures but for communal functionaries, and we can see the travel of those books beyond the centers of scholarship and publication into smaller (often rural) communities of limited resource and cultural capital.  Most importantly, the rich accumulation of inscriptions in the books reveals the ongoing negotiation between the printed text and the spoken and manuscript word, that regularly intervened in and dialogued with the never-quite-canonical text.

A couple of weeks ago I uploaded information about 40 additional imprints of the work, with approximately 250 footprints accompanying those imprints, in preparation for a longer scholarly article.  All of those examples were drawn from the Oppenheim collection, but I’ve been working through other collections in the US, Israel, and Europe to identify copies of the book, and am almost overwhelmed by them.  And that’s a good thing.  Because Footprints is all about overcoming the limits to a single individual’s capacity, and transcending that capacity through aggregated findings that are, in turn, made intelligible once more through the recombinant power of the visualization tactics of the site.

In fact, not long after those 250 footprints went live, Chaim Meiselman, Judaica Special Collections Cataloger at UPenn libraries and friend-of-Footprints discovered multiple footprints in a volume of the Shehitot u-vedikot, including one from 1719 in colonial America, leading him to wonder if this is perhaps one of the earliest to be discovered so far for the young Jewish community of North America!

In this project, as in so many others, we invite our colleagues and friends around the world to upload and share information about the historical movement of Hebrew books by recording material you may come across about the Shehitot u-vedikot (or any other Hebrew book).  This incidental data from individual research will take on a new life when aggregated with others.  And along the way, you may find something that advances your research as well!

So Happy Fifth Anniversary, Footprints, and thanks to all of the planners, programmers, questioners, and contributors.  Looking forward to seeing what the next five years bring!

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