Israel’s National Library Acquires 90 Pages of One of Earliest Printed Hebrew Books



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    הצלה 1290

    Israel’s National Library Acquires 90 Pages of One of Earliest Printed Hebrew Books

    These newly received pages come from the only existing copy of a ca. 1492 edition of “Arba’ah Turim”, one of history’s most important works of Jewish law • Full Story, Photos

    The National Library of Israel (NLI) has acquired 90 singular pages from the earliest period of Hebrew printing. The pages come from the only known copy of a late 15th-century edition of Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Asher’s Arbaah Turim. Yehoshua Soncino, a leading figure in the early Hebrew printing industry, published the edition in Italy around 1492. No complete copies of it have survived, and the pages acquired by the National Library of Israel in Yerushalayim are not found in any other collection in the world, public or private. Prior to the acquisition, the NLI already held 59 pages from the book.

    Works published prior to 1500 are known as “incunabula.” During this period, fewer than 200 total Hebrew titles were printed, of which around 150 have survived until today. The NLI has copies of more than 80 of them.

    Arbaah Turim, was written by Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Asher (approx. 1269-1343 CE), also known as the Baal HaTurim. The name of the work refers to the four sections into which it is divided, each of them covering different areas of halachah: Orach Chaim, Yoreh De’ah, Even Ha’ezer, and Choshen Mishpat. The pages just acquired by the NLI come from the first two of these sections. The four-part division of the Arbaah Turim, and the work more generally, have served as a foundation for countless commentaries and later attempts to codify halachah, including Rav Yosef Caro’s 16th-century Shulchan Aruch.

    According to Dr. Yoel Finkelman, curator of the Haim and Hanna Salomon Judaica Collection at the National Library of Israel, “Incunabula like these provide rich and unique resources for the research of Jewish textual culture, and they have additional aesthetic and bibliographic value. These pages in particular provide exceedingly rare tangible evidence of one of the very first religious Jewish texts to be printed. Even though the complete edition has not survived, it is exciting that these pages – part of an exceedingly important Jewish text – have come down to us and will now be preserved and made accessible to scholars and the general public by the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.”

    The Haim and Hanna Salomon Judaica Collection at the National Library of Israel includes the vast majority of Hebrew and Jewish books, journals and magazines ever published; thousands of Hebrew-letter manuscripts, as well as digital and microfilm copies of some 80,000 such manuscripts from collections across the globe; the world’s largest collection of Jewish music; and hundreds of personal archives of leading figures. Cherished treasures in the collection include the Rambam’s commentary on the Mishnah in his own handwriting; some of the earliest Talmudic manuscripts and printed Hebrew books; the world’s largest collections of kesubos and haggados; archival collections of leading rabbinic figures.







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    Israel’s National Library Acquires 90 Pages of One of Earliest Printed Hebrew Books



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