The Hebrew Book in Ear­ly Mod­ern Italy

Joseph R. Hack­er and Adam Shear, eds.
  • Review
By – June 20, 2012

Jews and books have been in a long rela­tion­ship that has often been very inti­mate. The his­tor­i­cal moments when that inti­ma­cy has been torn away and out­siders have peered in crit­i­cal­ly have been trau­mat­ic (the medieval Tal­mud debates come to mind). In ear­ly mod­ern Italy, how­ev­er, Jew­ish books played a cen­tral role in the cul­tur­al wars that were roil­ing Chris­t­ian soci­ety. Many Chris­t­ian intel­lec­tu­als read Hebrew, and many Jews read works in Latin and Ital­ian.

This rich col­lec­tion of stud­ies is pri­mar­i­ly the fruit of a year-long research group at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia in 2006. The chap­ters delve deeply into fas­ci­nat­ing and gen­er­al­ly unknown aspects of this sub­ject: the begin­nings of state-spon­sored cen­sor­ship of Hebrew man­u­scripts in fif­teenth cen­tu­ry Flo­rence, the busi­ness con­sid­er­a­tions that led Daniel Bomberg into Hebrew print­ing, Jews inter­ro­gat­ed by the Inqui­si­tion because of the dan­ger­ous Latin works they were read­ing, and the inter­nal state of Hebrew print­ing and book pro­duc­tion dur­ing these tur­bu­lent times. The clear focus of the vol­ume as a whole makes it an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the his­to­ry of the Hebrew book and to ear­ly mod­ern Jew­ish history.

Discussion Questions