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The Jewish legal tradition rests upon two foundations: the written law, i.e. Scripture, as set forth in the Pentateuch, and the oral law, the extra biblical legal tradition transmitted orally until codified in writing in the mishnaic-talmudic corpus. The Mishnah, the basic text of oral law, was redacted in Palestine at the beginning of the third century by R. Judah ha-Nasi; it is divided into six "orders," or categorical subdivisions. The Talmud, an elaborate commentary on the Mishnah, was produced in the academies of Babylon between the third and sixth centuries. In its over 70 tractates, covering nearly 6000 folio pages, the "sea of the Talmud" is filled not only with legal discussion and biblical exegesis, but also with social and economic history, science, and folklore - ancient culture, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

Written in Aramaic, the Talmud became the central text of traditional Jewish learning throughout the Diaspora. The running medieval commentary of Rashi of Troyes became the talmudic commentary par excellence, followed by that of the Tosafists, disciples and descendants of Rashi in the Franco-German school, whose selective commentary almost always accompanies that of Rashi in the editions. A number of individual tractates of the Talmud were published in Italy, Spain and Portugal before the end of the 15th century and early in the 16th century. The first complete Talmud was published in Venice between 1519 and 1523 by Daniel Bomberg, the Christian printer of Hebrew books. A nearly complete first edition is held in the Lowy Collection. Included in this exhibition are some tractates from these early editions, as well as from later 16th century editions published elsewhere in Europe.

Tal- mud. Eruvin. 1510? (1515?)
Talmud Babli. Order Mo'ed.
Tractate Eruvin

[ Eruvin ]
Pesaro: Gershom b. Moses Soncino,
1510? (1515?).

Eruvin, on aspects of the Sabbath laws, is considered one of the most difficult talmudic tractates, especially because of its mathematical discussions. Edited by Israel Ashkenazi, this edition is the first to incorporate explanatory diagrams, among the earliest illustrations in Hebrew books.

Tal- mud. Eruvin. 1510? (1515?)

Tal- mud. Pesahim 1519
Talmud Babli. Order Mo'ed.
Tractate Pesahim

[ Pesahim ]
Venice: Daniel Bomberg, of Antwerp,

This first edition of tractate Pesahim, on the laws of Passover, was also the first volume of Bomberg's first complete edition of the Talmud to be published. Bomberg's edition determined for all subsequent editions the pagination and the format of the talmudic page, with the commentary of Rashi on the inner margin.


[ Mishnayot ]
Mantua: Jacob b. Naphtali ha-Kohen
Gazzuolo, for Francesco Filipono,

Mantua was second only to Venice as a centre of Hebrew printing in Italy. This illustrated edition of the Mishnah with two commentaries, by Maimonides and Obadiah of Bertinoro (ca. 1500), is a continuation of the unfinished edition begun in 1559 by the Foà press in Sabbioneta.

Tal- mud. Rosh ha-Shanah 1579
Talmud Babli. Order Mo'ed.
Tractate Rosh ha-Shanah

[ Rosh ha-Shanah ]
Basel: Ambrosius Froben, 1579.

The Talmud was banned by the Pope in 1553 and placed on the Index Expurgatorius in 1559. The Basel edition (1578-1581), edited and printed for Froben by Israel Zifroni, was the first Church-censored edition, and was the basis for most later editions.

Talmud Babli. Order Mo'ed.
Tractate Yoma

[ Yoma ]
Constantinople: the brothers Solomon
and Joseph b. Isaac Jabez,
ca. 1583-1585.

The sons of Isaac Jabez published a major portion of the Talmud in Constantinople between 1582 and 1593. Yoma, on the divine service of the Day of Atonement and full of proverbs, parables, and narrative passages, was the first tractate of this edition to be published under the patronage of the Marrano statesman Don Solomon Abenaes (Ibn Ya'ish).

Go to Chap. 5 Go to Chap. 7

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