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Bidding Information
Lot #    34757
Auction End Date    7/17/2012 10:31:30 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin
Title (Hebrew)    ,
Author    First Bomberg Edition
City    Venice
Publisher    Daniel Bomberg
Publication Date    1520
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   First Bomberg edition. 129, [1] ff., folio, 326:225 mm., old hands many ff., light age and damp staining, title in facsimile, repairs to ff. 2-3, 31-33, 41-43, 62-68, 74, 77-88, 95-108 touching several letters or words - completed in manuscript, bound in modern full leather over boards, tooled in blind.
Paragraph 1    Includes the final, oft lacking, page with the volume's page register.

A rare volume as it was oft censored or totally destroyed due to its content. Among them is the stories of Yeshu, disciple of R. Joshua b. Korhah, which the Church deems heretic as the timeframes differ with their own by hundreds of years. This section of text on f. 43 was excised from future editions and only restored in modern editions.

   Tractate Sanhedrin, fourth tractate in the Mishnah order of Nezikin. The sequence of the tractates within an order being as a rule determined by the size of the tractates, it should be remembered that the three Bavot originally constituted one large tractate of 30 chapters, to which Sanhedrin, together with *Makkot which was originally united with it, is second in size. *Sanhedrin , in the context of this tractate, means "court of justice," referring to the great bet din, which comprised 71 ordained scholars, and the subordinate courts, composed of 23 judges, functioning in various towns. The general term bet din usually referred to minor courts of three members. In general, the tractate deals with the composition and power of the courts of different kinds and degrees, with legal procedure and criminal law.

Daniel Bomberg, the son of an Antwerp merchant, can be referred to as the father of the printed Babylonian Talmud. Indeed, among his many accomplishments are the first printing of Babylonian Talmud (1520-23) and the Jerusalem Talmud (1522-23, a beautiful copy in this auction), the first Mikraot Gedolot (1515-17), the first Alfas (1522), the first Kariate printed book (1528-29). Why the Christian (Calvinist) Bomberg printed Hebrew books is a subject of many bibliographers articles. He was associated with Felice da Prato, an apostate who subsequently became a friar, who influenced him to print Hebrew books. Israel Mehlman assumes that proselytism played a role in the process, albeit a small one. The activities of Bomberg on behalf of the Jewish community were not limited by printing. The British Jewish historian, Cecil Roth, writes that Bomberg helped Marranos find refuge in Turkey. He is recorded as having fought for and obtained certain rights for his Jewish workers denied other Venetian Jews. For a detailed, in-depth review of the Bomberg Talmud see Printing the Talmud, Prof. Marvin J. Heller, Im Hasefer, Brooklyn, 1992, pages 135-182. For all his righteousness Bomberg nevertheless appears to have plagiarized much of the text for his Talmud from the Gershom Soncino tractates. Soncino complains in his Mikhlol that the Venetian printers copied his editions (Heller p. 145). Support for his complaint can be found in the errors Bomberg duplicated from Soncino tractates.

Ephraim Dienard best describes the rarity of the tractates in the late 19th and early 20th century (Atikos Yehudah p. 42): I doubt the existence of greater than three complete sets in the world. The tractates utilized in yeshivot were torn and lost. Especially rare to find are complete volumes of the following tractates: Berakhot, Bezah, Sabbath, Chagigah, Gittin, Kiddushin, Ketubbot, the three Bavaos. The majority of tractates in Jewish Theological Seminary (New York), Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati), University of California in San Francisco, Library of Congress are of my doing, complete ones not to be found. Needless to say conditions have not improved in the 21st century, the Holocaust and Jewish perils have only added to the scarcity of these volumes.

   EJ; Heller, Printing the Talmud, p. 241; Vinograd, Venice 28; Habermann, Bomberg 23
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Listing Classification
18th Century:    Checked
Holland:    Checked
Kabbalah:    Checked
Liturgy:    Checked
Bindings:    Checked
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica