The most important Jewish prints from Lublin
Jewish printing houses of Lublin played a significant role in conveying religious tradition of Jews living not only in lands of the Commonwealth, but in the whole Europe. Talmud editions printed in Lublin, forbidden in Southern countries, very often took long journeys before they finally reached their addressees. Also “Zohar” and many other books that are important for Jewish tradition were published in printing offices of Lublin.
- First edition of Babylonian Talmud (1559 – 1577)
- Second edition of Babylonian Talmud (1617 – 1628)
- 'Tzene urene' (1615)
- Lublin edition of 'Zohar' (1623)
- History of the Lublin edition of 'Zohar'
- Lublin Hebrew Calendar 'Sefer Ibronoth' (1615, 1640)
- 'History of Jews in Lublin' by Szlomo Baruch Nisenbaum (1899, 1920)
- 'Historic Jewish headstones of the city of Lublin' by Szlomo Baruch Nisenbaum (1913)
- 'History of Lublin Jews' by Leon Szper
First edition of Babylonian Talmud (1559 – 1577)
Talmud is a commentary to Torah, a type of code valid for every religious Jew. Through ages it has been the main point of reference, that the rabbis all around the world used to refer to, when they had to resolve various discussions on the adaptation of Torah laws to contemporary life conditions.
Babylonian Talmud was formulated in Babylonia in the beginning of 6th century, and it’s almost four times bigger than Jerusalem Talmud, that was formed in 4th century in Palestine. It was printed for the first time in Guadalajara (Spain) in 1480-1482. Lublin edition of Talmud was the seventh one and the first one in this part of Europe.
First Polish edition of Babylonian Talmud was printed in Lublin. First tractate of Babylonian Talmud - “Shevu’ot” - was published in 1559, and it took another 18 years to publish other tractates.
K. Pilarczyk says about the history of printing the Lublin edition of Babylonian Talmud, “The publishing house had already been working for 12 years, when it started to print this work, that required good understanding of printing art as well as collaboration with eminent Talmudists, who could prepare the text to be published. (...) During the printing process, (...) owners changed. In the beginning it was owned by Chaim ben Icchak and Han[a?] bat Jakar (1556 – 1564), then by Eliezer ben Icchak and Josef (1566 – 1572), and after that it was bought by Kalonimos ben Mardochaj Jafe and he run it until 1597. They used to select collaborators and win Jewish philanthropists, who financed printing of the book, taking care about continuity of religious message among Judaism believers, especially those who lived in the Commonwealth. They used to hire proofreaders among erudite Talmudists, not mentioning normal workers – typesetters, printers, whose skills used to make their publications much more attractive”1.
Krzysztof Pilarczyk, “First tractate if Babylonian Talmud, coming from the printing house of young Chaim ben Icchak, was published in 1559. It was “Shevu’ot” tractate (...) “Shevu’ot” copies are very rare. One of them is now in possession of Jewish Theological Seminary in New York”.
Krzysztof Pilarczyk, “Second tractate of the first Lublin edition of Babylonian Talmud, „Gittin”, was published in 1560 in Końskowola near Pulawy, in the Lublin region,(...) because of the epidemic that spread in Lublin and other cities of Poland, printers from Lublin moved there with all the typographic equipment in the end of 1559”.
Krzysztof Pilarczyk, “Tractates known from the first Lublin edition form barely 30 % of the whole Babylonian Talmud. It is not known, if 32 tractates, which were left, were not printed at all at that time, or simply the edition was complete, but only 12 of tractates are known to us. An insight by Szabbataj ben Josef Bas in his bibliography titled “Siftei yeshanim” (1680) indicates the second option, because this first Jewish bibliographer wrote, that he saw complete Babylonian Talmud, printed in Lublin”2.
Second edition of Babylonian Talmud (1617 – 1628)
Krzysztof Pilarczyk, “Another owner of Jewish publishing house in Lublin, who published Babylonian Talmud, was Cwi ben Kalonimos Jafe, called sometimes Cwi ben Abraham Kalonimos Jafe or Cwi [Hirsz] ben Abraham Kalmankes Kalonimos Jafe. He run Lublin printing office in years 1604 – 1628”3.
He started to print next tractates of Babylonian Talmud in 1617. Printing of the second edition of Talmud took 12 years, including pauses, and the last tractate was printed in 1639 in the printing house run by Cwi Kalonimos’ sons.
Clemence VIII in a very sever bull 'Cum Hebraeorum malitia' forbade anyone who lives in Christian world to own a Talmud (both books and manuscripts). This law was executed in the most rigorous way in the Papal State and other countries within the Apennine Peninsula. As a result of such Papal policy, since publication of ‘Kiddushin' tractate in Sabionetta, not even a one Jewish or Christian printer dared to publish any of Talmud tractates for 450 years. They were printed, though, in Poland and Turkey, where in 16th century studies of Torah developed, in Basel, that starting from 1501 was a part of Swiss Confederacy, and in other cities of the German Empire in 17th and 18th century. Particularly important for European Jews were these editions of Talmud that come from Jewish publishing houses of Lublin and Cracow. These publishing houses assured continuity of transmission of Judaic tradition in the second half of 16th century and in the first half of 17th century, when Talmud in Italy was forbidden and under the threat of annihilation4.
'Tzene urene' (1615)
The most popular book in Yiddish 'Ze’enah u-Re’enah' (also: 'Tzena Urena', 'Go Forth and See') was printed in the publishing house of Cwi ben Kalonimos in 1615.
It was a first edition of this book designed especially for Jewish women. Book consisted of periphrasis and remarks on Pentateuch5. 'Ze’enah u-Re’enah' quotes in original version every verse of Torah, and then gives Yiddish translation and commentaries. It creates an image similar to a tessellated page of Talmud. Great majority of explanations that follow the basic text of 'Ze’enah u-Re’enah' are inspired by classical medieval commentaries of Rashi and Rambam, as well as various midrashim6.
Lublin edition of 'Zohar' (1623)
Lublin edition of 'Zohar' ('Sefer ha Zohar' - 'Book of Splendour'), as well as two editions of Babylonian Talmud, evidences how high was the level of Jewish printing houses in Lublin during its Golden Age.
'Sefer ha Zohar' is a medieval mystical creation written in Aramaic and Hebrew. It is composed of 20 tractates describing creation of the world, commentaries to Pentateuch and others. It is one of the most extensive Jewish texts (2400 pages)7.
Until 20th century only three full editions of this book were published, including the Lublin one. The very first edition of 'Zohar' was published in Cremona, in 1559. Based on this edition, the Lublin edition of 'Zohar' was published in 1623. During short period of time (1558 – 1560) another, competitive edition of 'Zohar' came out in Mantua. The Lublin edition is the third one in Europe8.
History of the Lublin edition of 'Zohar'
'Sefer ha-zohar' was published with the inspiration, or at least encouragement, of its Christian fans. It was published almost simultaneously in two different versions in two cities not very distant one from another – Cremona (1559) and Mantua (1558-1560). Circumstances of printing both editions are unusual. First edition, printed in the publishing office of a Christian printer Vincenzo Conti, who collaborated with Samuel Boehm and Zanvil Pascarol, is printed partially on parchment, and it encloses large fragments of Sefer ha-bahir, it has a permission of Christian censorship, but it doesn’t have any of required rabbinic approvals. The Mantua edition doesn’t enclose any Bahir fragments, or Christian censorship permission, but it has approvals of three rabbinical authorities. The decision of a Christian censor must have been inspired by his supervisors, maybe even Vatican. It seems that the first one was designed mainly for Christians, or as a missionary literature. That would explain the use of rectangular typeface as the one that was comprehensible for Christian Biblical scholars, but not typical for rabbinical literature, that used to use a typeface called 'Rashi'. Who prepared manuscripts of 'Zohar' to be printed and implanted there Bahir? It could have been Postel, who at that time finished already his first translation of Zohar, which means he already had suitable manuscripts, he was also a fan, translator and commentator of Sefer ha-Bahir. The competitive Mantua edition was prepared as Jewish reaction, in other words – it was somehow forced by a Christian initiative.
What were the differences between the Cremona and the Mantua edition? First of all the way of publishing. For sure using long fragments of 'Sefer ha-bahir'. But maybe something else? When the Frankists accused rabbis, that they censored 'Zohar', they meant their own Mantua edition. All hints indicate that the preparation to print in a Christian publishing house with help of Jewish converts, induced rabbis to publish 'correct', so probably censored and devoid of Bahir, version of the text, which thanks to the approvals, was supposed to push out of the market the heretic edition. But for a long time it didn’t succeed. Three editions that consisted of many copies were still in use in the second half of 18th century in the Kabbalist society. It’s the Cremona edition of 'Zohar' that was the medium of transmission of the Bahir’s conception, and that is also why it became a target of attacks of Talmudic establishment. Only two Zohar’s editions were based on the Cremona one – Lublin (1623) and Sulzbach (1684) editions9.
Perhaps it is the Lublin book of 'Zohar' that was mentioned in two different pieces of literature, 'God and Magog' by Martin Buber, and 'The Miracle on the Cemetery' by Klemens Junosza Szaniawski. Buber’s novel tells the story of last years of the Seer of Lublin, which were turbulent years of napoleonic wars. The Seer and his followers are convinced that the glory of salvation will come for Jews very soon. Willing to make the Messiah come immediately the Seer used certain book to make it happen:
'In the middle of a circle there was a flat stand, and a huge book, that I have never seen before, lied on it. It was opened, so you could see two pages filled with irregular verses and a couple of illustrations. (...) Then, while commenting a verse from the Scripture, he ended his utterance saying, 'And that’s how it is'. These words 'that’s how it is' the rabbi said with such a power that we all shivered. 'That’s how it is', he repeated, and put his finger in this place, in the last book, where I saw an illustration of a triangle (...)'10.
Protagonist of 'The Miracle on the Cemetery' tells a legend about a dead rabbi, that rose from the dead because of bells ringing in the Catholic church. 'Great scholar made everyone stand up, and he sent one boy home to bring him a book, that was on the highest shelf in his library. When the youngster brought him the book, rabbi started to read it aloud. As a result of his prayer, all the hill that the cemetery and church were situated on, started to tremble. This fact caused panic (...) After numerous entreaties, the earth stopped trembling. Rabbi sent the boy with the book back to the right place, and he died again'11.
Lublin Hebrew Calendar 'Sefer Ibronoth' (1615, 1640)
First edition of Hebrew calendar 'Sefer Ibronoth' by a teacher of German origins, Eliezer ben Jacob Bellin Ashkenazi, was published in Lublin in 1615. His calendar was based on the work of Jocob Marcaria (Riva, 1561). Eliezer ben Jacob corrected and completed his publication. This first edition of Lublin calendar 'Sefer Ibronoth' for the year 1615 survived only in few copies.
The calendar 'Sefer Ibronoth' was published also in 1640. H. Łopaciński mentions this second Lublin edition of calendar, '(...) we know Lublin calendar for 1640 only from the description by Teofil Żebrawski, 'It’s a Hebrew book 'Sefer Ibronoth'. Book that has a configuration of a calendar. 'It is printed at times of king Władysław (IV) in the printing house, established by the erudite Hirsz, son of Abraham Kalonimus Jafe, in 5400 (1640)'. In Polish and Russian calendar he mentions Christian holidays and places of fairs'12.
Third edition was published in 1691 in Frankfurt, and the fourth one in 1720 in Zedner. The fifth one, the richest, regarding typography, completed with illustrations etc., was published in 1722 in Offenbach13.
'History of Jews in Lublin' by Szlomo Baruch Nisenbaum (1899, 1920)
Nisenbaum’s book 'History of Jews in Lublin' (written in Hebrew) was published in Lublin in 1899. This is the book that M. Bałaban used when he was writing 'Jewish Town in Lublin' (Die Judenstadt von Lublin' Berlin 1919). In the catalogue card of the book (Łopaciński Library), we can see a handwritten information in Polish about what we can find in the book, 'Short characteristics of eminent people and seniors of our city, something about their lives, and the history of Jewish community in the old times, collected from various books and old scriptures. With remarks and completion by D. Kaufmann, A.A. Harkawa and S. Buber'14.
M. Bałaban mentions Nisenbaum’s book, 'There was a book by Nissenbaum published in Hebrew in 1899, 'Lekorot ha’Jehudim b’Lublin' (History of Jews in Lublin) consisting of epitaphs of famous people from Lublin, with short bibliography notes and annexes by Dawid Kaufmann, Harkawa and Buber. In spite of many gaps and mistakes, this book has remained until today the unique compendium of knowledge about the history of Jews in Lublin. A comprehensive critique of this work was written by Josef Kohn Cedek in 'Meassef' (Saint Petersburg, 1902). He enclosed many completions and references to the work of Eisenstadt-Wiener (Daat Kdoszin), and especially to genealogies presented there, that Nissenbaum didn’t take into consideration at all'15.
The book by S.B. Nisenbaum was reissued in 1920. We can find in this edition information about printing office: 'M. Szneidmeser’s Publishing Office Lublin 1920'. This publication is available in the Łopaciński Library16.
'Historic Jewish headstones of the city of Lublin' by Szlomo Baruch Nisenbaum (1913)
A book in Russian titled 'Yevreyskiye nagrobnye pamiatniki goroda Liublina' was published in 1913 in Saint Petersburg, and it was dedicated to the Jewish headstones dating from 16th to 20th century (first decade).17 The author of this book was a Lubliner, S.B. Nisenbaum who was a historian of Lublin Jews. The book contains photos of headstones of following people (in parenthesis date of death):
- Rab. Jakow Kopelmnan hLewi /1541/
- Rab. Szalom Szachne ben Josef /1558/
- Chazan Awraham ben Oszyi /1543/
- Maharshal /1573/
- Rab. Jehuda Łajb ben Mair Ashkenazi /1597/
- Rab. Mojsze ben Jehuda /1617/
- Rab. Dr Mojsze Montalto /1637/
- Rab. Israel br. Mair /1639/
- Rab. Natan br. Icchak Szapiro /1652/
- Rab. Jakow br Efraim Naftali /1644/
- Rab. Naftali – Hirsz /1682/
- Rab. Cwi – Hirsz br. Zacharie – Mendel /169
- Rab. Icchak-Ajzyk Segal /1735/
- Rab. Cwi-Hirsz br. Ezriel /1737/
- Rab. Awraham Parnes /1762/
- Rab. Jakow – Chaim /1769/
- Rab. Szaul br. Mair Margulis /1788/
- Rab. Cwi-Hirsz Margulis
- Rab. Jakow Icchak Horowic 'Choze' /1815/
- Rab. Ezriel Horowic 'Iron Head' /1818?
- Rab. Bejrisz Aszkenazy /1852/
- Rab. Mesiłam-Zelman Aszkenazi /1843/
- Rab. Jeszuje-Heszł Aszkenazi /1867/
- Ohel of Rab. Lajbele Ajger /1887/
Rab. Hilel Arje /1907/
(compiled by Symcha Wajs)
A person of particular merit in saving the memory of culture of Lublin Jews was Szlomo Baruch Nisenbaum (1866-1927). This old bookseller was recalled by Majer Bałaban, outstanding historian, who stayed in Lublin during the First World War as a referent for Mosaic faith, in his book 'Jewish Town in Lublin'. Nisenbaum was one of few Lublin citizens, who were interested in saving the monuments of the past, and in history of Jewish religious community. Many times during the Interwar Jewish journal 'Lubliner Tugblat' ('Lublin Journal') published his appeals to save this most precious monument of Jewish Lublin. This journal, that he constantly collaborated with, published also his articles about history of Lublin and its Jewish inhabitants18.
He cooperated as well with 'Myśl Żydowska' ('Jewish Thought') and was a co-editor of above mentioned 'Lubliner Tugblat', published almost continuously from 1918 until the outbreak of Second World War. Nissenbaum wrote a book 'Lekoroth hayehudim b’Lublin' ('History of Jews in Lublin'). In 1913 he published an 'Album' of tombstone epitaphs from the Old Jewish Cemetery in Kalinowszczyzna and Sienna Street, collected and described by him. The 'Album' was a supplement to a Saint Petersburg’s journal 'Yevrieyskaya Starina'. It referred to 27 headstones, most important from historical point of view, and photos.
In the Old City, in 17 Grodzka Street, Nisenbaum for years run his own bookstore and antique shop19. In the book by Józef Łobodowski 'Dzieje Józefa Zakrzewskiego' ('The Story of Józef Zakrzewski') the main protagonist likes to come to that shop and talk with the owner, and we can find those conversations in the book.
In the Łopaciński Library there is his work about famous Jews from Lublin. It a reissue from 1921. Unfortunately, nobody reads it, because of a very simple reason – nobody remembers about Nisenbaum, and the book is in Hebrew, for inhabitants of Lublin today – very exotic language (…)
Szlomo Baruch Nisenbaum was one of the very first Jewish historians in Lublin20.
'History of Lublin Jews' by Leon Szper
Another historian interested in Lublin Jews history was Leon Szper, who planned to write a book titled 'History of Lublin Jews'.
M. Bałaban, 'Recently another Lubliner devoted himself to study the history of Lublin Jews. He revises and completes epitaphs by Nisenbaum and he already prepared a biographical lexicon of famous Jews of Lublin. It hasn’t been published yet. During the years 1916-17 same author wrote a series of articles titled 'Contribution to the history of Jews in Lublin' for a Polish weekly magazine 'Myśl Żydowska'. However, unfortunately, they are nothing more than introductory essays'21.
Compiled by Tomasz Pietrasiewicz
edited by Alicja Magiera, Agnieszka Wiśniewska
Translated by Magdalena Dziaczkowska
1 Pilarczyk K., Talmud i jego drukarze w Pierwszej Rzeczpospolitej, Kraków 1998, s. 70-75.
2 Pilarczyk K., Talmud i jego drukarze w Pierwszej Rzeczpospolitej, Kraków 1998, s. 106.
3 Pilarczyk K., Talmud i jego drukarze w Pierwszej Rzeczpospolitej, Kraków 1998, s. 108.
4 Pilarczyk K., Reprodukcja Talmudu do połowy XVI wieku, /w:/ Studia Judaica 1: 1998 nr 2, Kraków 1998, s.175.
5 Pilarczyk K., Leksykon drukarzy ksiąg hebrajskich w Polsce (XVI – XVIII wiek), Kraków 2004, s. 42-43.
6 Ciałowicz A, Świat "Cene urene", w: Forum Żydów Polskich
7 Zętar J., Drukarnie hebrajskie w Lublinie, /w:/ Scriptores nr 1/2003(27) , Lublin 2003, s. 59.
9 Doktór J., tekst nie publikowany.
10 Buber M., Gog i Magog, ...
11 Junosza-Szaniawski K., Cud na Kirkucie, w: Z jednego strumienia szesnaście nowel, Kraków 1901.
12 Lubicz R. (Hieronim Łopaciński), Wydawnictwa Periodyczne w Lublinie, /w:/ Kalendarz Lubelski 1891, Lublin 1890, s.12.
14 Nisenbaum Sz. B., Die Judenstadt von Lublin, Lublin 1920/21, karta katalogowa egzemplarza dostępnego w Wojewódzkiej Bibliotece im. Hieronima Łopacińskiego w Lublinie.
15 Bałaban M., Żydowskie miasto w Lublinie, Lublin 1991, s.125.
16 Kuwałek R., Czy Lublin miał Żydowskie elity?, /w:/ Scriptores nr1/2003/(27), s.110.
18 Kuwałek R., Czy Lublin miał Żydowskie elity?, /w:/ Scriptores nr1/2003/(27), s. 110.
19 Kuwałek R., Czy Lublin miał Żydowskie elity?, /w:/ Scriptores nr1/2003/(27), s.110.
20 Kuwałek R., Czy Lublin miał Żydowskie elity?, /w:/ Scriptores nr1/2003/(27), s.109-110.
21 Bałaban M., Żydowskie miasto w Lublinie, Lublin 1991, s.125.
Bałaban M., Żydowskie miasto w Lublinie, Lublin1991.
Ciałowicz A, Świat "Cene urene", w: Forum Żydów Polskich
Junosza-Szaniawski K., Cud na Kirkucie, w: Z jednego strumienia szesnaście nowel, Kraków 1901.
Kuwałek R., Czy Lublin miał Żydowskie elity?, /w:/ Scriptores nr1/2003/(27).
Lubicz R. (Hieronim Łopaciński), Wydawnictwa Periodyczne w Lublinie, /w:/ Kalendarz Lubelski 1891, Lublin 1890.
Nisenbaum Sz. B., Die Judenstadt von Lublin, Lublin 1920/21, karta katalogowa egzemplarza dostępnego w Wojewódzkiej Bibliotece im. Hieronima Łopacińskiego w Lublinie.
Pilarczyk K., Talmud i jego drukarze w Pierwszej Rzeczpospolitej, Kraków 1998.
Pilarczyk K., Reprodukcja Talmudu do połowy XVI wieku, /w:/ Studia Judaica 1: 1998 nr 2, Kraków 1998.
Pilarczyk K., Leksykon drukarzy ksiąg hebrajskich w Polsce (XVI – XVIII wiek), Kraków 2004.
Zętar J., Drukarnie hebrajskie w Lublinie, /w:/ Scriptores nr 1/2003(27) , Lublin 2003.