AUCTION 26 | Monday, November 22nd, 2004 at 1:00
Exceptional Printed Books, Sixty-Five Hebrew Incunabula: The Elkan Nathan Adler-Wineman Family Collection

Back to Catalogue Download Catalogue

Lot 44


With commentary by Moses ben Maimon / Maimonides (RaMBa”M). Translated from Arabic to Hebrew by Judah ben Solomon al-Harizi (Zera'im), Joseph ben Isaac ibn al-Fawwal (Mo'ed), Jacob ben Moses ben Achsai (Bedresh) (Nashim, Nezikin), Nethanel ibn Almali (Kodshim and Toharoth). (See EJ, Vol. XV, col. 1324) ff. (356). Vol. I: ff.1-150. Vol. II: ff.151-272. Vol. III: ff. 273-356. Few leaves laid to size, taped repairs in places, few light stains.19th-century blind-tooled calf, leather ties. Folio Vinograd, Naples 24; Goff 82; Goldstein 47; Offenberg 92; Steinschneider, p. 280, no. 1982; Thesaurus A73; Wineman Cat. 44

Naples: Joshua Solomon ben Israel Nathan Soncino and Joseph ibn Peso 1492

Est: $80,000 - $100,000
COMPLETE, Wide-margined copy OF THE FIRST EDITION OF THE MISHNAH. ONE OF THE MOST OUTSTANDING OF HEBREW INCUNABLES. It is rare to find a complete copy of the famed Naples Mishnah. Accumulating nine years of skill and experience, Joshua Solomon Soncino produced this magnificent folio which is also most probably his last work. Bibliographers consider this to be one of the most superb of Hebrew incunables. “Soncino’s sumptuous edition of text and commentary contains nearly four dozen woodcut diagrams, which are among the earliest non-decorative illustrations in Hebrew printing.” See B. Sabin Hill, Hebraica from the Valmadonna Trust, The Piermont Morgan Library (1989) no. 15. The Naples Edition of the Mishnah, the basic text of Rabbinic tradition, is the only incunable edition of the Mishnah to survive in its entirety. Fragments—no more than a few leaves—of an earlier Spanish edition are the only surviving printed version that predate this Naples edition. The commentary of Maimonides was only published once in the incunable period. One peculiarity of the present edition are the occasional blank spaces within the text that were left for graphics. It seems that these were considered by Soncino an “extra frill” and if desired, one might subsequently commission the diagrams to be inserted in manuscript. This explains the fact that some copies of this Mishnah will have a blank in a given spot while others possess the diagram, either printed or in manuscript. Regarding typographical variants of this edition see A. Yaari, Iyunim be-Incunabulim Ivri’im, in: Kiryath Sepher, Vol. XXIV (1948) pp.157-9. See also Amram, pp. 63-69; J. Bloch, Hebrew Printing in Naples, inter alia. The Hebrew Press at Naples had a short but distinguished existence. Initially founded in 1486 by Germans, Joshua Solomon Soncino subsequently followed his workers there around about 1490. At least four of Soncino’s publications are known to have been produced in Naples. The Soncino press achieved renown for its textual accuracy. No doubt Joshua Solomon Soncino and his fellow craftsmen in Naples would have continued to produce good books, were it not for the tumultuous events of 1492. Following an influx of Spanish Jews exiled by the cruel edict of KIng Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Naples suffered a severe plague, only to be put to the sword by the conquering army of Charles VIII of France. The entire Jewish community at Naples was decimated and whether Joshua Solomon Soncino died in the upheaval or fled is unknown