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

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!

Guest post: Of Auctions and Collaboration (Anna E. de Wilde)

The below post is by Anna E. de Wilde, PhD candidate within the ERC-funded MEDIATE project based at the Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands and Footprints collaborator. It is also cross-posted on the MEDIATE blog.

For the last few months I was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, under the wonderful guidance of Michelle Chesner. This emerged from a collaboration between Footprints and MEDIATE. Like Footprints, MEDIATE is a Digital Humanities project focusing on book ownership. It seeks to study the circulation of books and ideas in eighteenth-century Europe by drawing on a unique database of eighteenth-century private library auction catalogues. Within this project I focus on auction catalogues that were printed in the Dutch Republic and list private book collections of Jewish owners.

Both projects seek to collaborate with other projects around the world to expand their knowledge and to increase the available data. First of all, we can learn from each other’s challenges in developing and constructing a database. Whereas Footprints focuses on Jewish books, within MEDIATE Jewish books are a small part of a broader project. This different focus results in other questions. It was thus a great opportunity for me to be involved in a Digital Humanities project grounded in Jewish scholarship. For example, I was interested to learn how Footprints tackles the issue of Hebrew books that are known by different titles and how to find pragmatic solutions to issues of title variants. This was especially true concerning she’elot u-teshuvot, pirushim, and Bibles – which Footprints organized under the umbrella of a literary work.

To familiarize myself with the database and understand its fundamentals, I searched Columbia’s collection in search of unknown owner’s marks to add as footprints. Going through this rich collection was a real treat and I would like to share two interesting finds. First, in a copy of Tseror ha-Hayyim (Amsterdam, 1738) I found the handwritten annotation by Barukh Almanzi stating that he bought this book from rabbi Raphael Isaiah Azulai of Ancona – and what’s more – it tells us that he purchased it in the year 5576/1816. This is an important detail, because until now, no date had been known for this transaction of books that once belonged to Raphael Isaiah’s father Joseph David Azulai  (also known as the HIDA), and of which Columbia’s Judaica collection has many more books. [Ed. Note: Yisrael Dubitsky at the National Library of Israel pointed out that Benjamin Richler’s Guide to Hebrew Manuscripts, 1st edition, cites Meir Benayahu’s book on the HIDA from 1959 which lists the date of the sale.  I (Michelle) did not know of this article until after Anna’s find.]

Another interesting find was in a copy of Midrash Shoher Tov (Prague, 1613). While this book has several owner’s marks on the title page, it got especially exciting when I encountered an annotation on fol. 7r. It states the following: אני מרים בת הרב המופלג מהורר אברהם יצו שליען, loosely translated as ‘I Miriam daughter of rabbi  Abraham Schlein’. It is a rare Footprint for the fact that Miriam, as a woman, left a mark on the book that passed through her hands. Did Miriam own this book or should we list her as a viewer of the book that might have belonged to her father?

Although these finds are a side note of my own research, it was relevant to work in Footprints for another aspect of our collaboration: the exchange of data. Whereas MEDIATE’s database is created around a single set of sources – that is, private library catalogues – Footprints uses a large variety of sources. While both projects have their own focus, they also complement one another. The sources for my research are also a rich source for possible Footprints. The eighteenth-century auction catalogues I study provide us with the lists of the books collected and owned by (mostly) Dutch Jews. So, it does not concern owner’s marks in physical copies of book, but rather ownership based on another historical source, i.e. auction catalogues. These Footprints are therefore indicated as ‘historical copies’. Thereby, I should note that most of the lot descriptions state very little information – with often only a title of a work. To have sufficient information for a Footprint, I have been trying to match those lots to imprints wherever possible.

From another perspective, the books listed were sold at auctions and through this second hand book market scattered over The Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Therefore we might be able to find traces of these books after these auctions through Footprints, and thus can link certain lots of eighteenth-century auctions to physical copies. For example, in the most recent blog post by Chaim Meiselman, I was delighted to see the name of David Nunes Torres, rabbi of a Portuguese Jewish community in the Dutch Republic. He owned a rich collection that was auctioned in 1728 in The Hague. While we encounter him in this case not in the capacity of an owner, it shows great potential for other connections.

And, indeed, in the database I came across several Footprints that can be linked to specific lots within an auction catalogue listing the collection of the famous poet and scholar Solomon ben Joel Dubno (1738-1813). On the 13th of July 1814, his collection was auctioned in Amsterdam, where he had lived for the last two decades of his life. One of these Footprints can be found in a copy of Levi ben Gershon’s commentary on the Torah (Venice, 1547), held nowadays by Eli Genauer. The upper part of the title page bears the signature of Solomon Dubno, which shows how he referred to himself in Hebrew: שלמה מדובנא, Solomon of Dubno, the place he was born.

Accordingly, I found in the catalogue of his collection under Folio lot 349 (p.10) the following entry:

דיטא [פירוש רלב”ג על התורה] ד”ו [דפוס ויניציא]

Although only the place of imprint is stated, and not the date or any copy specific information, I would argue that it most likely concerns here the above copy. The auction catalogue, in turn, also has handwritten annotation of buyers and prices. Lot 349 was bought by a certain I. Grobety for 1.16 [florins]. Accordingly, two additional Footprints can be linked to this specific copy; for the sale of the collection at Amsterdam, and for I. Groberty’s acquisition of the book.

In conclusion, a collaboration between projects like Footprints and MEDIATE not only provides us with the opportunity to enrich the databases, but it also makes it possible to reconnect historical collections that only exist in an early modern catalogue to physical copies scattered around the world, and vice versa.

Guest post: Of Printers and Footprints (Chaim Louis Meiselman)

The below post is by Chaim (Louis) Meiselman, Judaica Special Collections Cataloger at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries and a Footprints contributor.

Printer’s signatures and marked copies are something which needs attention, and through the Footprints project I have been able to see signatures and marks – something usually reserved for manuscripts and manuscript culture – from the printers of the books – those whose mark is usually left only via the press.

Print culture and manuscript culture differ mainly in this way – print culture disseminates similar or identical items, while manuscript culture is a focused, unique item; the bridge between them is provenance marks, creating a unique copy and an object for study as a singular item.

However, what if a volume has manuscript inscriptions from a printer? This appears to be its own genre of printed work – that of a printer’s association copy.  Additionally, we know printers through their printed work; for example, we know the Soncinos through the renowned volumes printed in Rimini and Naples. However, are there printers that are known through a manuscript sort of mark, like a signature, colophon, note, or other marking?

Here are a list of some which I’ve seen through the Footprints project:

The signature and long poem of Paulus Fagius. Fagius printed in the town of Isny im Allgäu in Bavaria in Germany. he is well known in the history of Hebrew printing as the publisher and printer who worked with Elia Levita in Isny to print Levita’s works (including the meturgeman and the Bovo Bukh). A volume of the Meturgeman now held at the University of Pennsylvania Rare Book and Manuscript library has a manuscript poem written by Fagius in 1541 just after the copy came off the press, gifting the volume to his teacher, Wofgang Fabricius Capito of Strasbourg. Fagius uses an Ashkenazic cursive hand typical of the 16th century; I think that his dedication shows that he had learned (almost certainly from Levita) how to write a Latin-esque dedication in rabbinic Hebrew. Capito died in November 1541; I’m not certain he received the volume or ever got to see it; but here we see an example of manuscript writing from a famous character in the history of Hebrew printing.

The signature of David Nunes-Torres. Nunes-Torres was an editor, scholar, and type corrector who worked with Joseph Athias in Amsterdam. Torres corrected a set of Shulhan ‘arukh and Maimonides’ Yad ha-hazakah during the first years of the 18th century. He also was a hakham and had a large library of his own, which sold the year after he died. A copy of the Bible printed 1700-1705 in Amsterdam, has his signature under a printed poem; this volume is now in the collection of Archbishop Marsh’s library in Dublin.

The signature of Samuel d’Archivolti. R. Samuel ben Elhanan Ya’akov d’Archivolti (1515-1611) was a grammarian, poet, and scholar who served as a type-corrector and editor on a number of volumes. He worked at the de Gara, Parenzo, and Bragadin printing houses between 1565 and 1602. He was the author of many works, including  Ma’ayan Ganim and ‘Arugat ha-bosem, and a teacher of Leon de Modena. In a copy of the Sefer ha-‘ikarim (printed in Venice, by Cornelius Adelkind, 1543; today in the Brisman Collection at Washington University in St. Louis) d’Archivolti signs and dates his signature to 1548.

The signature of Shmu’el Böenft Shnur : Schnur was the printer of Fürth before 1728.  He began printing during the later 1680s. He was a Talmud hakham, a respected Torah scholar, and had the title of מו”צ (Mo”ts; Moreh tsedek) in addition to being a printer. He mostly printed editions of great rabbinic works: the editio princeps of the Beit Shemuel on the Shulhan ‘arukh Even ha-‘ezer (1726); a reprint of a commentary on Shulhan ‘arukh Hoshen ha-mishpat called Me’irat ‘enayim in 1691; other rabbinic works such as Naftali sova ratson, sermons on the order of the parshiyot (written by Naftali Hertz Guenzberg) printed 1713; Ma’aseh Hiya by R. Hiyya ha-Rofe of Safed (1726); and an expanded edition of the Nahalat shiv’ah, halakhic novellae on the halakhot of Gitin and Kidushin (1724). His printer’s device was a lone tree in a field. A copy of R. Avraham Saba’s Tseror ha-mor (printed in Venice, 1567, by Giorgio de Cavalli), now at the Baltimore Hebrew University Collection at Towson University, is inscribed by Schnur’s son, Zalman Schnur, and indicates the volume was inherited from his father.

The signature and deed of sale by Gershom Soncino. Gershom (also known by Hieronymus or Girolamo) Soncino is the most prominent printer of Hebrew incunabula. Soncino printed in (Italy) Soncino, Naples, Barco, Pesaro, Brescia, and Rimini (among others); (Greece) Saloniki and (Turkey) Constantinople. A bill of sale on a volume of the Sefer mitsvot ha-gadol at The Library of Congress Rare Book Collections, printed in Soncino in 1488, is written and signed by Soncino on the occasion of his selling the volume to a Mosheh Diena, with the stipulation to not resell the volume within 2 years of his signature.

Finally, two small other items from families of printers. A poem by a Moses Benjamin Foa appears on a volume of Mahzor minhag Roma, printed in Bologna in 1540, now in the collection of Columbia University Libraries. This may have been a relative of the Foa printers of Venice, including Isaac Foa, who printed there during the 18th century.

A miniature printing of the Mahzor, printed in Prague during the 1830s (the exact date of printing is unknown), a signature appears across multiple leaves – that of Yedidiah Shelomoh Bak of the Bak family in Prague. This volume is today in the Baltimore Hebrew College collection at Towson University.

Non-printed marks that printers left in printed books is a field that still needs more attention, and as more examples of this genre are added to the Footprints database, we will have a broad range of primary sources to draw upon for this work.

Guest Post: A Stick Plucked From The Fire (Eli Genauer)

Eli Genauer is a collector and contributor to Footprints.

There is a fellow in my synagogue named Menachem who travels the world as a software consultant. He loves talking to me about my old books and even helps me with inscriptions which are in Polish or Russian.

Menachem was recently in Warsaw and decided he wanted to bring me a book as a present. He found an antiquarian bookstore, and asked (in English) if they had any old Hebrew books. The owner said no, so he asked again, but this time in Polish. A sales person overheard and she thought they might just have one. It took them about 15-20 minutes of looking but they finally found the one Hebrew book in the store. It was down in the basement. What a book it was! It was missing the title page, but it had this colophon at the end of the first section.

As you can see, it is the ספר הלבוש, the portion called לבושׁ התכלת on the first part of אורח חיים. The book also contained לבוש החור on the latter portion, and it included the commentary of אליה זוטא. The book was printed in Prague in 1701 and is the first time אליה זוטא appears.

I was able to access the missing cover page which was scanned from the holdings of the Columbia University library.

I checked some of the earlier editions of the Levush and all contain wonderful printed diagrams especially concerning the laws of ראש חודש and עירובין. This edition did away with the diagrams and left blank spaces in their place.  Someone drew in the missing diagrams in my copy from 1701 but they are lacking some of the detail of the printed drawings contained in the first edition (Prague 1609)

Here is an example from סימן תכ״ז הלכות ראש חודש

1701 edition

1609 edition

There are two ownership marks inside the book.

One is handwritten:

ספר הלבוש הלז שייך למו״ה צבי שרגא וויינדיצקי פה ק’ק מלאווע

“This book, Sefer HaLevush, belongs to Zvi Shraga Vynditzki of Mlawa” (Mława – is a town in north-central Poland, capital of the Mława County, situated in the Masovian Voivodeship.)

The second ownership mark is a stamp:

שמואל דוד יאקובאוויטש

לובלין, שעראקא 16

Szmul Dawid Jakubowicz

Lublin, Szeroka 16 – Book Number 657

Who was Szmul Duwid Jakubowicz?

From the Yad Vashem website:

Szmul Duwid Jakubowicz was born in Biala Podlaska, Poland in 1892 to Chaim and Tzivie. He was a Contador (accountant/bookkeeper) and married to Chawe. Prior to WWII he lived at 16 Szeroka street in Lublin, Poland. During the war he was in Lublin, Poland.

Szmul Duwid was murdered in the Shoah.

This information is based on a Page of Testimony submitted by his daughter. According to her testimony, Shmuel Dovid was killed in Majdanek in 1942.

Shmuel Dovid did not survive the Holocaust. This book that belonged to him that he so lovingly catalogued, ended up in the basement of an antiquarian bookstore in Warsaw. It was found due to the efforts of a man who persisted in trying to find a lost Hebrew book in Poland. Hopefully, bringing its story to light will give a sense of life to Shmuel Dovid and the other millions of lives lost in the Holocaust.

Editor’s note: A week later, Chaim Meiselman, another collector and contributor to Footprints, reached out to let me know that he has a record of the same man in his own collection!  The footprint is here:

Ed. note March 6, 2020: Eli Genauer was able to identify an heir to the book! Dr Samuel Jakubowicz Of São Paulo, Brazil is named after Shmuel Dovid, the owner from whom the book was stolen.

Footprints updates 2018-2019

We are pleased to report on the progress of Footprints over the last year.  The past year has been full of scholarly, professional, and technical activity that has continued to propel Footprints forward. Here are some highlights:

First and foremost, the scholarly agenda of Footprints is proceeding apace.  The number of footprints in the database continues to grow, furnishing students and scholars with a larger source for inquiry and analysis. The ongoing growth of the database is due in large part to the partnerships with libraries in North America, Europe, and Israel and their staffs, as well as the work of individual researchers at different stages of their academic trajectories who continue to engage with the project. Beginning this fall, Dr. Lucia Raspe is bringing her expertise in early modern book culture to the University of Frankfurt Library to collect footprints from the world-renowned collection.

You may recall that in a  previous letter we announced that we would be directing our energies toward capturing as much information as possible about a finite set of books: incunabula. Our Footprint count for incunabula alone comprises 20% of the total dataset, (interestingly, the same percentage as last year, which means that the entries for other publications continue to grow steadily as well). We are working with the dataset compiled by our partners in the MEI project and should be able to ingest that data soon.  There are still fascinating incunabula held in small numbers in collections across the US, Israel, and Europe, and we are continuously working to make sure our dataset is as comprehensive as possible.

Engagement of students and wider audiences remains a priority for us.  We are looking forward to bringing together a select group of applicants for training in paleographical skills to work both on their own projects and to contribute to Footprints. In February 2020 we will be conducting a three-day workshop on early modern Ashkenazic paleography that will be led by Dr. Edward Fram from Ben Gurion University.  Following the workshop in February 2020, we plan a series of webinars, bringing in additional experts to train people in other scripts from different regions of the world. The call for applications is already up and we are starting to hear from interested applicants.

Our programming and growth are supported in part by external funding measures and in-kind donations. The American Academy of Jewish Research,  the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, The Jewish Theological Seminary, CUNY Graduate School, Fordham’s Center for Jewish Studies, and additional Jewish Studies programs are supporting our paleography workshop.

Our programmers are hard at work at making the site more efficient and user-friendly.  A partnership with DICTA at Bar-Ilan University is working to enhance our search capabilities to allow for results in multiple character sets and languages, and will go a long way toward making our search interface accessible to international audiences.  Additionally, the staff at Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning are preparing a new visualization interface which will depict the riches of the database on maps that can be used in classrooms and for individual research projects.  We look forward to its unveiling in the coming months!

« Older posts

© 2021 Footprints Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑