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The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy
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The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy

Edited by Joseph R. Hacker and Adam Shear

336 pages | 6 x 9 | 7 illus.
Cloth 2011 | ISBN 9780812243529 | $75.00s | Outside the Americas £60.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Jewish Culture and Contexts
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"This compact yet intellectually expansive book illuminates the many overlapping worlds of the production of—and, crucially, the reaction to—Hebrew books in early modern Italy. The period covered is expansive as well, some 300 years. . . . And Italy is the fons . . . of Jewish print culture, home to the first dated Hebrew book as well as the first book printed in the lifetime of its author. . . . This is a collection in which each essay is a labor of love, and in which one is struck by each scholar's deep interest and erudition. . . . It is worthy of the stunning books it discusses."—TLS

"In early modern Italy Jewish books played a central role in the cultural wars that were roiling Christian society. . . . This rich collection of studies . . . delve[s] deeply into fascinating and generally unknown aspects of this subject. . . . An important contribution to the history of the Hebrew book and to early modern Jewish history."—Jewish Book World

"A remarkably valuable contribution to the cultural history of the Jews in the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. The essays offer deep insights into methodological issues broadly connected to the larger general context of continuity and change, focusing on the dialogical relationship between Jewish and non-Jewish identities, especially on the constitutive forces ushering in the modern age."—Robert Bonfil, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The rise of printing had major effects on culture and society in the early modern period, and the presence of this new technology—and the relatively rapid embrace of it among early modern Jews—certainly had an effect on many aspects of Jewish culture. One major change that print seems to have brought to the Jewish communities of Christian Europe, particularly in Italy, was greater interaction between Jews and Christians in the production and dissemination of books.

Starting in the early sixteenth century, the locus of production for Jewish books in many places in Italy was in Christian-owned print shops, with Jews and Christians collaborating on the editorial and technical processes of book production. As this Jewish-Christian collaboration often took place under conditions of control by Christians (for example, the involvement of Christian typesetters and printers, expurgation and censorship of Hebrew texts, and state control of Hebrew printing), its study opens up an important set of questions about the role that Christians played in shaping Jewish culture.

Presenting new research by an international group of scholars, this book represents a step toward a fuller understanding of Jewish book history. Individual essays focus on a range of issues related to the production and dissemination of Hebrew books as well as their audiences. Topics include the activities of scribes and printers, the creation of new types of literature and the transformation of canonical works in the era of print, the external and internal censorship of Hebrew books, and the reading interests of Jews. An introduction summarizes the state of scholarship in the field and offers an overview of the transition from manuscript to print in this period.

Joseph R. Hacker is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Adam Shear is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

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