SIDDUR (daily prayer-book according to the Ashkenazic rite). Prague: Gershom ben Solomon Hakohen, Meir ben David of Prague, Meir ben David Halevi Epstein and Hayyim ben David Shachor, Wednesday 20 Tevet 276 (= 26 December 1515).
4o (205 x 155 mm). PRINTED ON VELLUM. Collational formula impossible to establish due to tight binding: a regular quire consists of four sheets, but deviations occur.
CONTENTS: Fol. 1r: blank; fol. 1v-46v: Weekday morning prayer, text on 1v printed within elaborate printed woodcut border with floral and vase motifs, at bottom two winged putti holding a crowned shield with a Magen David; fol. 47r-52v: Sabbath evening prayer; fol. 52v-58r: Sabbath morning prayer; fol. 58r-59r: Taking out the Torah; fol. 59r-60r: Reading of the Haftarah; fol. 60v-62v: Sabbath prayer after the reading of the Torah; fol. 62v-65r: Sabbath Musaf prayer; fol. 65r-71r: Sabbath Minchah prayer; fol. 71r-76r: Prayers for the outgoing Sabbath; fol. 76r-76v: Prayer on viewing the New Moon; fol. 76v-77r: Musaf prayer for the new month; fol. 77r-86v: Musaf prayer for Sabbath of the new month, prayers for the 9th of Av, Purim, Shalosh Regalim and Chol ha-Mo'ed; fol. 87r-104r: Haggadah shel pesach, including the Piyyutim 'Az rov nissim hifle'ta ba-laylah,' 'Va-amartem zevach pesach' and 'Ki lo na'eh'; fol. 104r-128r: Sayings of the Fathers; fol. 128r-142r: New Year prayers; fol. 142r-154r: Prayers for the Day of Atonement; fol. 154v-170r: Hosha'anot and prayers for Simchat Torah; fol. 170v-183v: Prayers for Passover; fol. 184r-188r: Shavu'ot prayers; fol. 188r-194r: Prayers for Sukkot; fol. 194r-195v: Prayers for Simchat Torah; fol. 195v, line 11-196r: colophon by Gershom ben Solomon Hakohen, the printer, Meir ben David, scribe of Tefillin, of Prague, the printer, Meir ben David Halevi Epstein, the printer, and Hayyim ben David Shachor, the printer; 196v: blank; fol. 197: blank; fol. 198r-226r: Shir ha-Yichud; fol. 226v-228r: Shir ha-Kavod; fol. 228v-229r: Yigdal Elokim Chay; fol. 229v: blank. 229 leaves.
No foliation, headlines, signatures or catchwords. Text measures 135 x 196 mm. Types: Ashkenazic square types in three different sizes, vocalized, with alef-lamed ligature, a separate grapheme for the tetragram, rafeh, and a space filling sign. Three shapes of lamed. Dilated dalet, he, resh and tet. Mem-height of the largest type, used for initial words, 9 mm., lamed 16 mm.; 20 lines of the text type 176 mm.; 20 lines of the smaller text type (for instructions etc.) 116 mm.; moreover a few VERY EARLY APPEARANCES of semi-cursive Ashkenazic rabbinic type, used for liturgical instructions on fols 7r, 12r, 13r, 48v, 59r, 65r, 80r and 88r, mem-height 2 mm. Woodcut page-border as described above. Printed on Ashkenazic vellum with equalized sides, only occasionally allowing for a distinction between hair and flesh sides. Ruled in plummet through fol. 196r, rubricated through fol. 89v, and RICHLY ILLUMINATED BY A CONTEMPORARY ARTIST.
CONDITION: generally excellent. Thumbed and slightly soiled, especially in the first half of the book, some candle-wax stains, occasional light smudging or rubbing to illuminations, woodcut on first page cropped at head, later fore-margins of fols. 89-90 extended with modern parchment causing partial loss to a few letters, part of lower blank margin cut away on fol. 229 without loss of text, a few small natural holes, blank fol. 1r with library stamp of Jews' College, London.
BINDING: Modern blue morocco, covers and spine panelled in blind with gold-tooled fleurons, matching morocco-edged slipcase, two modern paper flyleaves at front and back, gilt edges with old gauffering (cropped before the gauffering, with minor loss of illumination and manuscript commentary, not affecting the printed text).
PROVENANCE: Contemporary anonymous marginal manuscript commentary in an early sixteenth-century semi-cursive Ashkenazic hand, with square headings. Many of the short commentaries provide notarikon or explanations based on the acrostics of the prayers. On fol. 42r the commentary quotes Rabbi Judah he-Chasid of Regensburg and Samuel (ben Barukh) of Bamberg, two early thirteenth-century sources.
RULING AND RUBRICATION: The scribe who wrote the commentary, identified by the name of Moses on fol. 18r, where the three letters of that Hebrew name are written in red ink and highlighted with pointers, was probably also responsible for the ruling and rubrication. Up to fol. 196r the text is ruled with single vertical ruled lines in the inner margins and two sets of double vertical rules in the outer margins, all executed in plummet. The manuscript commentary is neatly written in the open space between the two sets of double vertical lines, thus allowing for a balanced layout of the glossed page. The last commentary occurs on fol. 50r. That the rubrication, consisting of various red ink flourishes, both to the printed text and manuscript commentary, was probably the work of the commentary scribe can be deduced from the fact that some marginal commentaries contain letters written with the same red ink as used for the flourishes. Since portions of rubrication on fols. 2r and 87v appear on top of the illumination, and since the ruling never seems to protrude into any of the illumination, one may conclude that the illumination was supplied first.
ILLUMINATION: The entire copy was decorated, illustrated in water-colors and tempera, and illuminated with gold and occasionally silver by a contemporary artist in the style of Central European Renaissance manuscript illumination. The paintings were applied over under-drawings executed in plummet (often nearly indistinguishable from the plummet used for the ruling), and a considerable number of the decorations and illustrations were never finished, as can be seen from the many under-drawings that are still clearly visible. It is not easy to assign the decorations to a particular region. Thematically they are related to a group of fifteenth-century manuscripts that commonly are believed to have been produced in Southern Germany, while stylistically they show a clear Italian influence. In the cases of the illuminated initial words (see list below), it could not be established with absolute certainty whether the spaces were left blank by the printers, to be filled in by a scribe afterwards (a technique not uncommon in early printing), or whether the artist first scratched away the printed lettering (which can be done with vellum) and applied his own letters, or whether both cases occurred. In a few instances it is clear that the artist applied the supporting bole and the gold onto the already printed initial letter(s).
LIST OF ILLUMINATIONS AND DECORATIONS:
Fol 1v: initial word panel 'Mah', within the woodcut border, executed in gold on a blue ground;
Fol. 2r: multi-colored elaborate floral border, covering approximately two-thirds of the inner, upper and outer margins. In the bottom margin a scene illustrating the ritual washing of the hands, depicting two men performing the washing in a Renaissance basin, the figure on the right holding what is probably a towel;
Fol. 2v: printed initial word 'Barukh' with simple rectangular border in red and blue ink;
Fol. 7r: the Temple in Jerusalem, in the lower and outer margins, illustrating Mishnah Zevachim 5:1-8;
Fol. 8v: initial word 'Zivchei', written in black ink, gold applied onto the printed letter (partly flaked off), possible remnants of supporting bole also on initial 'he' of 'Ha-Todah' on the same page;
Fol. 10r: opening word panel 'Barukh' supplied in gold on a pinkish ground. A vignette-like image of a male head between floral sprays, flanked by a rampant lion (right) and a rampant bear (left);
Fol. 17v: King David, sitting, playing the harp, accompanied by a sitting Levite, playing a horn, in a pastoral landschape, illustrating Psalm 33;
Fol. 25r: initial word panel 'Va-yosha' executed in gold on a blue ground, with pen flourishes in dark brown ink. Painting in lower half of outer margin and bottom margin of Pharaoh and his Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea, the Israelites watching from the other side;
Fol. 32v: initial word panel 'Barukh' executed in gold on a blue ground;
Fol. 47r: initial word 'Barukh' executed in gold;
Fol. 66r: initial word panel 'Barekhi' executed in gold on a red ground;
Fol. 87v: two male figures, one with uncovered upper body, raising the Seder plate over an otherwise empty white table cloth, with two male figures and one female figure also attending;
Fol. 88r: a horse (head cropped) in upper margin. Initial word panel 'Ha', executed in gold on a purple ground;
Fol. 91v: the building of the cities Pithom and Ramses in Egypt, in lower and outer margins, finished, the unfinished plummet drawing continued in the lower and outer margins of facing page 92r;
Fol 92v: an angel, green and yellow background, gold frame, slightly cropped on the right (face damaged, or subsequently erased?);
Fol. 93r: a sworded angel, red background, gold frame (slightly cropped on the left, face damaged but still discernible);
Fol. 96v: standing man holding the maror, gold frame, blue background (slightly cropped at right margin);
Fol. 98v: initial word panel 'Shefokh' executed in gold on a red ground. The prophet Elijah on a donkey, blowing the shofar, entering Jerusalem through the opened gate, announcing the coming of the Messiah, gold frame (cropped at right margin);
Fol. 104r: initial word 'Mosheh' executed in gold;
Fol. 128r: initial word panel 'Barukh' executed in silver (beth and waw) and gold (resh and kaf), on a green ground with brown penwork infill, within a black and blue frame with simple blue flourishes;
Fol. 154v: floral decoration in upper margin (cropped). Initial word panel 'Hosha' executed in gold on a purple ground. Standing man holding lulav and etrog, gold frame, blue background (face slightly rubbed, cropped at right margin);
Fol. 198r: initial word panel 'Ashirah' executed in gold on a purple ground.
Under-drawings (a few of those appearing in the upper margins are cropped) appear on:
Fol. 10r: part of an animal (head cropped) in upper margin;
Fol. 11r: floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 12r: floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 13r: two grotesque male heads in lower margin;
Fol. 14r: griffin in lower margin;
Fol. 15r: horse and dog in lower margin;
Fol. 16r: part of an animal (head partly cropped) in upper margin;
Fol. 17v: floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 19r: floral decoration in lower margin;
Fol. 20r: floral decoration in upper margin. A bird and a floral decorative motif in the lower margin;
Fol. 22r: a man walking in nature, illustrating G-d's creating powers (Psalm 147);
Fol. 24r: bird in lower margin;
Fol. 35r: horse and bird in upper margin;
Fol. 37v: floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 39r: animal in upper margin (head partly cropped);
Fol. 41r: horse in upper margin (head partly cropped);
Fol. 42r: snail in upper margin;
Fol. 43r: serpents in upper margin (partly cropped);
Fol. 44r: reclining horse in upper margin (head cropped);
Fol. 47r: cat(?) in upper margin;
Fol. 49r: fish in upper margin;
Fol. 87v: floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 92r: building of Pithom and Ramses, continuation of fol. 91v in lower and outer margins. Standing male figure in upper part of outer margin;
Fol. 94r: one of the rabbis in Benei Berak, sitting in a chair in outer margin;
Fol. 94v: one of the rabbis in Benei Berak, standing, in outer margin; Fol. 96r: sitting man holding a matsah, in outer margin;
Fol. 107r: remnant of floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 108r: animal in upper margin (head cropped);
Fol. 110r: remnant of floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 110v: remnant of floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 146r: very interesting depiction of the INTERIOR OF A PRIVATE HOUSE, with husband and wife living together peacefully, most likely illustrating the Rosh Hashanah benediction for a prosperous life, with interesting depictions of an ASHKENAZIC SABBATH LAMP (type 'Judenstern'), and some pieces of furniture, including three large books, two of them on a shelf, fore-edges turned to the front, a third opened on a table, in lower margin. In the outer margin a building, perhaps a synagogue;
Fol. 148r: turtle in upper margin;
Fol. 150r: remnant of floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 152r: remnant of floral decoration in upper margin;
Fol. 154r: animal in upper margin (head cropped);
Fol. 156r: elephant in upper margin;
Fol. 158r: remnant of floral decoration in upper margin.
THE ONLY KNOWN COPY, LUXURIOUSLY ILLUMINATED, OF THIS ISSUE OF THE THIRD BOOK PRINTED BY THE EARLIEST HEBREW PRESS NORTH OF THE ALPS.
Hebrew printing in Prague started in 1512 (the first Christian press in this city was established in 1487). A consortium of four printers and two backers published, on the day before Chanukkah, 2 December 1512, a Daily Prayer-book, of which only one imperfect copy has survived in the Bodleian Library. In contrast to nearly all the fifteenth-century Italian and Iberian Jewish printers, the Prague consortium introduced typefaces that were typically Ashkenazic in style and design, indigenous to Central Europe. It is quite likely that the phylactery scribe Meir ben David of Prague was responsible for the design of these typefaces.
On October 30, 1514, the press issued a booklet of 48 pages and two illustrations, Zemirot (Benedictions and Hymns for the Home), with Birkat ha-Mazon (Grace after Meals). It is possible that the printer Gershom ben Solomon Hakohen (better known as Gershom Kohen Katz (died 1544), the printer of the famous Prague Haggadah of 1526, who is named in the present edition for the first time, financed the venture. The only known existing copy is held by the Jewish State Museum of Prague.
On 26 December, 1515, the consortium published a new edition of the Prayer Book, more ambitious than the first, enhanced with splendid initial types and far more extensive, containing the additional prayers for Festival evening services. The earliest bibliographer to mention a copy was the Christian bibliographer and Hebraist Johann Christoph Wolf (1683-1739), who reports in the fourth volume of his Bibliotheca Hebraea that he had seen it in the library of the noted Chief-Rabbi David Oppenheim of Prague (1664-1736). When Oppenheim's library was acquired in 1829 by Oxford University for the Bodleian Library, Leopold Zunz and later Moritz Steinschneider drew attention to the Prague Siddur. Steinschneider described it as a unique copy in his famous 1852-1860 catalogue of the Hebraica in the Bodleian Library. In 1911 Aron Freimann mentioned the existence of another copy on vellum in Berlin, but it is uncertain whether that copy still exists. The present Beth Din Library copy was first described in the catalogue of the Jewish Museum in London in 1974, edited by R.D. Barnett. There are several differences between the Oxford copy and the Beth Din Library copy and it is clear that they are the result of two different issues. According to Steinschneider the colophon in the Oxford copy appears on fol. 185 and contains additional information on one printer, by the name of Solomon ben Samuel Levi, and three backers, who may well have been involved in that issue only. Furthermore, the Beth Din Library copy includes sections that do not appear in the Oxford copy, notably THE SHIR HA-YICHUD, THE SHIR HA-KAVOD AND THE YIGDAL ELOKIM CHAY (fols. 198-229), all appearing here in print for the first time. The condition of the Beth Din Library copy is far superior to that of the Oxford copy.
J.C. Wolfius, Bibliotheca Hebraea 4 (Hamburg 1733) p. 1066*.
L. Zunz, Zur Geschichte und Litteratur (Berlin 1845) p. 270, no. 3.
[E. Carmoly], 'Historisches und literarisches Sndenregister einiger Zeitgenossen, zusammengestellt von einem Freunde der Wahrheit', in Literaturblatt des Orients 46 (Leipzig 1850) col. 726-27 (opposing Zunz).
M. Steinschneider, Catalogus librorum hebraeorum in Bibliotheca Bodleiana (Berlin 1852-60; 21931, 31964) 2065 (with error in converted date).
A. Freimann, 'Die hebrischen Pergamentdrucke', Zeitschrift fr hebraeische Bibliographie 15 (Frankfurt a. M. 1911) p. 52, no. 39.
S.H. Lieben, 'Der hebrische Buchdruck in Prag im 16. Jahrhundert', in Die Juden in Prag. Bilder aus ihrer tausendjhrigen Geschichte. Festgabe der Loge Praga des Ordens B'nai B'rith zum Gedenktage ihres 25jdhrigen Bestandes (Prag 1927) p. 88-106.
Ch. Wengrov, Haggadah and Woodcut. An Introduction to the Passover Haggadah completed by Gershom Cohen in Prague, Sunday, 26 Teveth, 5287 December 30, 1526 (New York 1967) especially p. 1-23.
Catalogue of the Permanent and Loan Collections of the Jewish Museum. Edited by R.D. Barnett (London 1974) p. 116-117, no. 623, plates 165-166 (this copy).
M. Marx, History and Annals of Hebrew Printing in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Cincinnati 1982) s.v. Prague 1515.
Y. Vinograd, Thesaurus of the Hebrew Book. Part II: Places of Print (in Hebrew) (Jerusalem 1993) p. 531-32, nos. 3 and 4.