MOSES BEN NAHMAN (Nahmanides; Gerona, Catalonia c. 1194-Acre 1270). Perush Ha'Torah (Commentary on the Pentateuch). [Rome:] Obadiah, Manasseh and Benjamin of Rome, [c. 1469-1472].
Royal folio (339 x 234 mm). Collation: [1-1110 1212 132; 14-2410 2512]. 230 leaves (of 246, lacking fols. 19/10, 20/9, 22/9-10, 23/1-8, and blank leaves 1/1, 1/2, 25/11 and 25/12), blank leaf 13/2 preserved. No foliation or signatures. Unvocalized text in one column, 45 lines. Types: 3:110 H (square) for text, 1:144 H (square) for initial words. Occasional offsetting from the original stacked sheets. (Final leaf 25/10 defective and encapsulated in archival tissue, fol. 25/5 rehinged, occasional very small holes or repairs to lower blank corners, ?printer's inkstain on fol. 6/8r obscuring 3 words, some staining in quire 16, trace of adhesion on fols. 24/9-10 obscuring 3 letters, a few other minor small stains, opening page slightly darkened, a few minuscule wormholes through first 30 and last 6 leaves.) Modern half blue morocco, mottled edges.
Provenance: two or three contemporary Hebrew marginalia and notes on verso of last leaf. loosely inserted is a fragment of one of the original blank leaves containing notes in Hebrew in the same hand, plus a later inscription in Italian; a few deleted words, signature of censor on final leaf, "Camillo Jaghel 1611 lugo"; London, Jews' College (inkstamps).
FIRST EDITION OF ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT HEBREW BIBLICAL COMMENTARIES, THE SIXTH BOOK ISSUED FROM THE FIRST KNOWN HEBREW PRINTING PRESS. In the late 1460s the three Roman Jews Obadiah, Manasseh and Benjamin set up a Hebrew press, probably within the city limits of Rome, and possibly in collaboration with Rome's prototypographers Sweynheym and Pannartz. The printers' names appear in the present edition at the end of Exodus. The Roman origin of the edition was not established until after 1896, when the Danish scholar David Simonsen discovered a 16th-century reference to an early edition of the responsa of Solomon ben Adret "printed at Rome", and was able to identify the edition by the number of the responsum cited. The Nahmanides is one of 5 other editions that share the same square type and are therefore attributed to the press (of an original 8 editions so attributed Adri Offenberg has eliminated 2, as being printed with a different type); none are dated. Later scholarship by de Rossi, Moses Marx, and Adri K. Offenberg (Catalogue of the Hebrew Incunabula in the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, 1971) established the approximate dates of the press, preceding the earliest dated Hebrew printed book (Rashi's Commentary on the Pentateuch, Reggio di Calabria, 18 February 1475) by several years. Offenberg noted that the paper stock with Crossbow in Circle watermark that was used by the press also appeared in books printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz and Ulrich Han in publications from 1469 to 1472. The Nahmanides was the last of the six to be printed (cf. Offenberg, The Library, 6th series XVI, December 1994). Frequently reprinted, the commentary on the Pentateuch by the Spanish Talmudist and poet Nahmanides decisively influenced subsequent rabbinical scholarship in Spain. Like the other books from the first Hebrew press, this first edition is EXTREMELY RARE.
The censor Camillo Jaghel spent the year 1611 in Lugo (in the province of Ravenna). Although Popper (The Censorship of Hebrew Books, NY 1899, repr. 1969, pp. 139-40) could find no evidence as to Jaghel's location in 1611, and speculated that he might already have been in Urbino, where he is known to have served the Inquisition until 1620, Adri Offenberg has located over 7 examples of books with his signature and the note "1611 Lugo" (personal communication).
Goff Heb-86 (4 copies); H 11669; IGI 6751; Ohly-Sack 2056; Freimann (Fr) 48; Goldstein, no. 1 (recording 6 copies in England, the present included); Steinschneider 6532.48; Zedner, p. 591; Offenberg Census 96 (recording 21 copies including this one, of which 7 imperfect).