Category Archives: Hebrew printing

A restored incunabulum – Naḥmanides, Ḥiddushe ha-Torah

Ramban among others
This edition of Nahmanides’ commentary on the Pentateuch from 1489 was the first book printed in Lisbon. It was published by two rabbis, Samuel Zorba and Eliezer Toledano and preceded the first Latin book printed in Lisbon by some six years. Toledano’s printing house was one of the earliest to use borders in his publications. His Nahmanides’ commentary has a beautiful inhabited floral border around first page. The frame was designed by a Christian printer and engraver, Alfonso Fernández de Córdoba originally for a Hebrew Bible published in 1486 and 1487 by Eliezer ben Abraham ibn Alatansi and Solomon ben Maimon Zalmati in Híjar, Spain. For operating a printing shop with Jewish connections, Fernando was sentenced to death in absentia in Valencia.
W B1i opening2
During the long life of this book, it must have been detached from its binding and remained unprotected. As a consequence, it lost several leaves from the beginning and the end. In 1954, the volume was restored: the missing leaves were replaced by photographic facsimile from another copy and it was rebound in a beautiful leather binding preserving it for the future. (Shelfmark W B1i)

First opening with engraved border  (facsimile leaves)

First opening with engraved border (facsimile leaves)


Opening with a facsimile leaf on the right and original on the left side.

Opening with a facsimile leaf on the right and original on the left side.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem

W H1474 Bak device

The first printing house in Palestine was founded in Safed, and published only six books in its short existence (1577-1587). Hebrew printing in Palestine was re-established by Israel ben Abraham Bak, who brought his printing equipment to Safed in 1831 from Ukraine. He repeatedly lost his printing press whilst in Safed due to an earthquake and riots. Thus in the late 1830s he decided to move the printing house to Jerusalem. As part of his endeavour to promote prosperity in the Holy Land, Moses Montefiore supplied him with new, modern printing press.
 W H1474 title page opening
Hayim Horowitz’s book, Sefer Hibat Yerushalayim was printed in this new printing house in Jerusalem. Its title page is dominated by Bak’s impressive printer’s device depicting the major landmarks of Jerusalem: the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives.
Our copy is signed by Nahman Nathan Coronel Palestinian scholar.

(shelfmark: W H1474)