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Bidding Information
Lot #    12919
Auction End Date    1/24/2006 10:14:00 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Babylonian Talmud, Four Tractates
Title (Hebrew)    תלמוד בבלי, זבחים, מנחות, בכורות, משניות קדשים
City    Frankfort am Oder
Publisher    Michael Gottschalk at Johann Christoph Beckmann
Publication Date    1699
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   [2], 2-121; 112; 69; 47 ff., 364:255 mm., wide margins, usual light age staining, worming with expert repairs. A good copy bound in modern half vellum and cloth boards.
   The first edition of the Talmud printed in Frankfurt-am-Oder (1697-1699). It was published by the press established by Johann Christoph Beckmann, professor of Greek language, history, and theology at the University of Frankfurt-am-Oder. Beckman began operating a printing press in 1673, and started issuing Hebrew books in 1677, but found that his responsibilities at the University left him with insufficient time to manage his press. Therefore, in 1693 he contracted with Michael Gottschalk, a local bookbinder and book dealer, to manage the printing house, transferring all of the typographical equipment and material to Gottschalk. Their arrangement was noted on the title pages of the books issued by the press, stating, "with the letters of lord Johann Christoph Beckman, Doctor and Professor. . . at the press of Michael Gottschalk." Gottschalk was the moving spirit of the press for almost four decades. Publication of this Talmud was sponsored by the Court Jew, Issachar (Behrend Lehmann) ha-Levi Bermann (1661-1730) of Halberstadt. Bermann reputedly spent 50,000 Rhenish Thalers on publication of this Talmud, and gave half of the sets printed to yeshivot.

Each volume of this Talmud has two title pages. The first is a separate engraved copper plate title page by M. Bernigeroth. It is immediately followed by the title page of the first tractate in the volume. The first title page consists of an upright lamb with a pitcher on top of a portico. Below it, on the sides of the page, are Moses to the right and Aaron to the left. Beneath them, similarly situated, are David, with a harp, and Solomon. Above each figure is that individuals' name. Habermann and Yaari both write that the sheep and laver represent Bermann, who was a Levi. Yaari adds that the sheep further represents Bermann's mazal (constellation), for Bermann was born on 24 Nisan, 5421 (Saturday, April 23, 1661), the astrological symbol for that month being a sheep. The individual tractate title pages have Michael Gottschalk's printer's mark, a mirror-image monogram formed from the interlaced letters of his initials MG, which can be read in straight and reverse images. On at least one title page (Seder Moed), the cipher is slightly different, being surrounded by a wreath.

The title page states: "As printed in Basle. Nothing was omitted or added except to correct the, errors. found in that edition." Rabbinovicz writes that while this is generally correct, the comment that nothing was added was written out of circumspection, for a considerable amount of material expurgated by the censor was restored. Texr deleted because it appeared objectionable to the censor as anthropomorphic or immodest, but which could nor be considered objectionable to non-Jews, was restored almost in its entirety. Furthermore, only a small portion of the marginalia with which the censor had annotated the Basle Talmud was reprinted here.

This Talmud was initially to have been printed with the support of Moses Benjamin Wulff, the court Jew in Dessau. Having established a Hebrew printing press in that city, he intended to issue a new edition of the Talmud. In 1696, when Beckmann and Gottschalk secured a royal imprimatur to print the Talmud, they approached Wulff seeking a partner and sponsor for their enterprise. Wulff accepted, and a contract was agreed upon stipulating that Beckmann and Gottschalk would supply Wulff with paper, typographical equipment, and skilled workers. Wulff, in turn, would pay the cost of publication. Beckmann and Gottschalk began to send the stipulated material to Dessau, but work progressed slowly, as the staff was inexperienced and expenses were considerably higher than anticipated. Beset by financial difficulties, Wulff was forced to withdraw, pay damages (compensation) to Beckmann, and agree that while he might continue to print other works he would not undertake another edition of the Talmud.

An important feature of this Talmud is the presence of haskamot (restrictive approbations) that were not specifically issued as an assurance that the contents were acceptable (whether to the censor or for the reader). This is the first usage of haskamot granting the right to print the Talmud to a single printing house for a specified period of time. These restrictive approbations would later cause disputes between printing houses. Haskamot forbade other printers, usually for fifteen to twenty-five years, from printing the protected work in order to allow the printer to recover his investment. In the case of Talmud editions, a large multi-volume work, this expense could be considerable. Gottschalk would later use the haskamot issued for this Talmud to prevent the completion of the Amsterdam Talmud begun in 1714 by Samuel ben Solomon Marcheses and Raphael ben Joshua de Palacio.

   A. M. Habermann, Title Pages of Hebrew Books (Tel Aviv, 1969), p. 130; Marvin J. Helier, 17th Century book (in progress); Rabbinovicz, Talmud (Jerusalem, 1952), pp. 96-100; Printing the Talmud Yeshiva University Museum pp.252-253. Concerning mirror image monograms, see Heller, "Mirror-image Monograms as Printers' Devices on the Title Pages of Hebrew Books Printed in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries," Printing History 40 (Rochester, N. Y., 2000), pp. 2-11.
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Listing Classification
17th Century:    Checked
Germany:    Checked
Other:    Talmud
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica