||Two tractates in one volume of the Babylonian Talmud, 9th edition, in a contemporary binding. The printing of the Babylonian Talmud was a difficult and perilous endeavour in the 15th and 16th centuries. Difficult because of the complicated text and its enormous size, perilous because of the animosity of the Roman Catholic Church and its censors in the Iberian peninsula, and in Italy, the most important countries of early Hebrew printing. The first three editions, which appeared before 1553, were destroyed for the greater part in 1553. In that year Pope Julius III ordered the destruction by fire of all copies of the Talmud which could be found. His orders were obeyed in many Italian cities with Jewish congregations.
After this event printers were afraid to risk their fortunes and sometimes even their lives by printing the Talmud. But the growing demand for the text which had become exceedingly scarce made some printers overcome their reluctance. Between 1559 and 1576 there appeared several separate treatises in Lublin, while in Basle a complete Talmud was printed in 1578-81, but without the highly censored tractate Avodah Zarah. The vicissitudes of this edition have been told in extenso by J. Prijs.138 The Basle edition set an example for many editions to corner. Even the fact, that it had no title-page for the whole, because the word Talmud in print might cause repression, became customary.
The Benveniste edition follows the Basle example in lay-out and text and also has no title-page for the whole work. Next to the Basle edition, also the edition from Venice, 1546-51 by Giustiniani and the editions from Cracow, 1602-5 and Lublin, 1617-39 have served as examples for the Amsterdam Talmud. This can be read in a statement of the corrector Abraham b. Joshua from Worms in his epilogue at the end of the Talmud. As there was no special censorship for printed books in the Dutch Republic, Benveniste's Talmud contains the entire treatise Avodah zara with all the references to Christianity.