Hebrew printing began in Rome where between 1469 and 1472, or 1473, at least six books were print- ed with movable Hebrew type. Moses Nahmanides’s Perush ha-Torah is one of these. After a short bless- ing, a brief colophon at the end of this commentary on the book of Exodus (fol. 123v) reads: “ . . . copied by Obadiah, Manasseh, and Benjamin, of Rome.” “Copied” in this context clearly means “printed.” The names of these men appear solely in this Rome imprint.
Two of the world’s leading Hebrew incunabulists have different opinions on the exact order of the printing of the six Rome editions. Primarily on
the basis of careful paper analysis, Adri Offenberg believed the Sefer Shorashim (Book of Roots) by the famous grammarian David Kimhi of Narbonne (1160–1235) is the first Hebrew book ever printed, while Shimon Iakerson claimed that it is impossible to establish unequivocally the order of the printing of these books.
Moses Nahmanides was born in Gerona, Spain, around 1194 and died in Acre, the Land of Israel, in 1270. His commentary on the Pentateuch is one of the most influential available and is still studied widely. He wrote it toward the end of his life, partly in Spain and partly in the Land of Israel. In 1267 he fled from Spain in order to escape persecutions by the Spanish Dominicans and the pope, who accused him of a hostile attitude toward Christianity.
From the second half of the sixteenth century onward, Christian censors in Italy checked Hebrew books and signed them, often after expurgating pas- sages considered hostile to Christianity. On the final leaf of the Braginsky copy a well-known Italian cen- sor signed his name: “Camillo Jaghel 1611 lugo.” This and similar inscriptions in at least six other books prove that Jaghel lived in Lugo in that year, before he moved to Urbino. [ e s ]
Hill 1989, no. 7, Christie’s New York 1999b, lot 179; Iakerson 2004, English section: pp. 3–6 (no. 1), Hebrew section: pp. 3–7 (no. 1); Offenberg 1990, no. 96; Offenberg 2004, pp. xliii-xlvi, pp. 8–9.
Moses Nahmanides (1194–1270), Perush ha-Torah (Commentary on the Pentateuch)
[Rome], printed by Obadiah, Manasseh, and Benjamin, [ca. 1469–1472 or 1473]
Paper, folio, 230 (of 246 leaves), 339 × 234 mm (13.3 × 9.2 in.), modern blue half-leather binding.
Braginsky Collection 300