Menachem Mendel

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The Earliest Printed Book in Hebrew

At Britannica Blog, via Cliopatria, there is a partial listing of the first books printed in numerous languages (see numerous corrections in the comments). For Hebrew there is listed “Rashi, [Commentary on the Midrash] (Rome, Italy, 1470)”. This is only partially correct. The first book printed in Hebrew with a date is Rashi’s commentary on the Torah, printed in the southern Italian town of Reggio di Calabria in 1475 in Spanish semi-cursive script (what later came to be known as “Rashi Script“). A fragment from this edition was sold a number of years ago for $82,600. That same year a dated version of R. Jacob ben Asher’s Turim was also printed in Piove di Sacco [here]. Despite these two being the first dated Hebrew books published, there were a number of undated books in Hebrew which were printed in Rome between the years 1470-1480, with some, if not most of them, thought to predate both Rashi’s commentary from Reggio di Calabria and Jacob ben Asher’s Tur. These undated books which were printed in Rome are:

1. Rashi’s commentary on the Torah (This edition of Rashi’s commentary along with the rest of these early Rome printings were printed in square script and NOT “Rashi Script”).
2. The five books of the Torah along with Onkelos’s translation, the haftorot and the five megillot.
3. Nachmanides’s commentary on the Torah. [here]
4. A commentary on the Book of Daniel by R. Levi b. Gershon (Gersonides). [here]
5. Sefer ha-Shorashim (“The Book of Roots”) by R. David Kimhi (the Radak). [here]
6. Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah. [here]
7. Maimonides’s Guide for the Perplexed. [here]
8. Sefer ha-Aruch of R. Nathan bar Yehiel of Rome. [here]
9. Responsa of the Rashba (R. Shlomo ben Aderet). [here]
10. Sefer Mitzvot Gadol of R. Moses of Coucy. [here]


A Sign and a Witness: 2000 Years of Hebrew Books and Illuminated Manuscripts, ed. Leonard Singer Gold; A.M. Haberman, ha-Sefer ha-Ivri be-Hitpatchuto.

One Response to “The Earliest Printed Book in Hebrew”

  1. 1
    Menachem Mendel:

    Some of these are available for viewing at the JNUL’s Digitized Book Repository.
    Dan Rabinowitz | Homepage | 04.11.07 – 12:35 pm | #

    I think that I got all of the links to the JNUL web site. Thanks.
    Menachem Mendel | Homepage | 04.11.07 – 8:02 pm | #

    I noted that your list of the first 10 printed Hebrew books does NOT include Rashi’s commentary on the Midrash, supposedly printed at Rome, which Britannica Blog mentioned. You mention instead Rashi’s commentary on the Torah as being printed in Rome in ca. 1470. Is this confirmed by all authorities?
    Eliyahu m’Tsiyon | Homepage | 04.18.07 – 10:31 am | #

    I am not aware of any commentary by Rashi on the Midrash. I assume that the intention was to his commentary on the Torah.
    Menachem Mendel | Homepage | 04.18.07 – 5:11 pm | #




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