(RaDa”K). Sepher HaShorashim [“Book of Roots” - lexicon to the Bible]

AUCTION 74 | Thursday, November 09th, 2017 at 1:00
Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters & Graphic Art

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Lot 122

(RaDa”K). Sepher HaShorashim [“Book of Roots” - lexicon to the Bible]

Second edition. Edited by Samuel ben Meir Latif. Text in square Hebrew typeface, Biblical references in sidebars in rabbinic type. ff. 120 (of 144). Lacking ff. 73-81, provided in facsimile: ff. 2–4, 9, 70, 98, 137-144. Quires vii and viii reversed as called for by Iakerson. Stained in places, occasional marginalia, few leaves strengthened, occasionally affecting text, worming and marginal tears repaired. Edges tinted red. Modern blind-tooled and paneled morocco. Housed in custom slip-case. Sm. folio.


Est: $8,000 - $12,000
R. David Kimchi (1160? -1235?), also known by the acronym (RaDa”K), was the most prominent grammarian of the Hebrew language in the medieval period, surpassing all others in simplicity, comprehensiveness, and methodical presentation of the subject matter. Kimchi was born in Provence after his father fled the Almohad persecutions in Spain. Both his father and brother were accomplished grammarians in their own right and Kimchi`s own philological writings would owe a great deal to their early influence. This work was originally part of a longer grammatical treatise, called Michlol. The first section, Chelek HaDikduk (grammar) retained the title Michlol, while the second section, Chelek Ha’Inyan (lexicon), would become known as Sepher HaShorashim, a glossary of Hebrew and Aramaic words. The title derives from the layout of the text, where the root letters of individual words are printed in large bold letters followed by philological explanations and biblical citations. It was due to the popularity of both Michlol and Sepher HaShorashim that most of the works of Kimchi`s predecessors fell into disuse.  Circulating in manuscripts for more than three centuries after his death, Kimchi`s philological writings became the primary grammatical text for the study of Hebrew and biblical vocabulary for centuries to come. With the advent of printing, Sphfer HaShorashim was brought to press three times during the 15th century alone, first in Rome, and twice in Naples. As a result, Kimchi`s work became readily accessible to a much broader constituency than he could have imagined and Sepher HaShorashim became the most-used reference tool for the study of biblical vocabulary through the 15th and 16th centuries for Jews and Christians alike. Samuel ben Meir Latif, the editor of this volume, began his career in the nascent field of Hebrew printing as a proofreader at the first Soncino press, before bringing his talents to the Gunzenhausers in Naples. It is perhaps somewhat ironic that the Soncinos would also relocate to Naples at around the same time as this volume appeared and within six months had issued their own edition of the Sepher HaShorashim (see next lot). Near the end of his life in 1514, Latif was printing in his own name at Mantua. See Treasures of the Valmadonna Trust Library - Otzroth Ya’akov, Incunables no. 46.