||Popular classical ethical work by an anonymous author. The title page has a decorative border and text which states that it is small in size but great in quality, it is Orhot Zaddikim and Sefer Middot, the latter another name by which the work has become known. It further states that a purpose of the book is to teach and make wise the stony and foolish heart and to bring it out of the path of dirt and mire (cf. Isaiah 57:20). The date is given in a chronogram from, “let my mouth not transgress” (Psalms 17:3). In the introduction, which begins on the verso of the title page, the author refers to the book as, “This Sefer Middot, written and sealed with the stamp of wisdom.” That page has a decorative header; the volume concludes with a decorative tail-piece. The text is in two columns in rabbinic type, excepting headers and initial words which are in square letters.
Orhot Zaddikim is comprised of twenty eight sha’arim (portals), most contrasting character traits, such as pride, humility, mercy, cruelty, love, hatred, joy, anxiety, concluding with repentance, Torah, and awe of Heaven. Its purpose is to instruct man in how to make use of his facilities to do right and achieve good. Man can train his senses, which strengthens or weakens the heart and soul, to achieve positive qualities and avoid negative ones.
It has not been possible to identify the anonymous author. The only historical fact cited in the work is the expulsion of the Jews from France in the 14th century. Since Orhot Zaddikim follows the teachings of the Hasidei Ashkenaz in many ways, it is possible that the author did not identify himself in keeping with the admonishment of Judah ben Samuel he-Hasid of Regensburg in Sefer Hasidim (also published anonymously) for writers to not identify their work so that their descendants might not pride themselves with the accomplishments of their fathers.
The same year that this edition was published the same publisher issued another edition of Orhot Zaddikim in quarto format, dating that volume with the same chronogram. This is the rarer of the two editions.