Auction 78 Rare and Important Items
May 25, 2021
 8 Ramban St, Jerusalem.
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LOT 17:

Leaf Fragments of Tractate Shabbat, Babylonian Talmud – Soncino, 1489 – From the First Edition of the Talmud to be ...

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Leaf Fragments of Tractate Shabbat, Babylonian Talmud – Soncino, 1489 – From the First Edition of the Talmud to be Printed

Leaf fragments of Tractate Shabbat from the Babylonian Talmud, printed in Soncino by Gershom Soncino, [ca. 1489]. From the first edition of the Babylonian Talmud to be printed.
Leaf fragments from a "bindings genizah", some forty fragments of Tractate Shabbat – fragment of chapter I, (equivalent to folio 4a-b); fragment comprising end of chapter V and beginning of chapter VI; fragments from chapters III, IV and VII; many fragments from chapters XV-XIX; and more.

Fragments of this tractate are extant in several libraries around the world, however, to the best of our knowledge, this section parallel to leaf 4 is the only existing copy of this section and is not found elsewhere.
Leaves of the first Talmud edition printed by the Soncino family are particularly rare, for several main reasons: 1. The printing was done clandestinely, for fear of the Christian authorities, following the 13th century burning of the Talmud Papal decrees (in 1239 and 1264). For this reason, the printing of the entire Talmud was not completed by the Soncino family (see: R. N.N. Rabinowitz, Maamar al Hadpasat HaTalmud, pp. 8-9). 2. Many copies which were sold to Spain and Portugal were lost during the expulsion and forced conversions in 1492-1497. 3. Many copies were later burnt in the 1553-1554 burning of the Talmud in Italy (see: R. N.N. Rabinowitz, ibid. p. 15). 4. Many copies were worn out from constant use (this was the only edition printed for several decades).
In this edition, the Tosafot were for the first time set as an integral part of the Talmud page layout, alongside Rashi's commentary (unlike Talmud editions printed in Spain, were only the Rashi commentary was printed alongside the text of the Gemara. See: Shem HaGedolim, Maarechet Sefarim, Gemara entry). The type of Tosafot included in each tractate was also determined here for future generations (mostly Tosafot of Touques. Regarding the Soncino family's choice of Tosafot for each tractate, see: Shem HaGedolim by the Chida, Maarechet Sefarim, Tosafot of Sens entry). In contrast, the page layout (and leaf numerals) in this edition is different to the one accepted today, which was only determined in the subsequent Bomberg edition.
The Soncino family, a Jewish family whose members were amongst the first Hebrew printers, took its name from the town Soncino, in northern Italy, where the family settled and established their first printing firm. There, they began publishing the Babylonian Talmud tractates (concurrently, printing of several tractates began in Spain). The first tractate, Berachot, was printed in 1484. Due to difficulties and troubles which befell them, the Soncino family were compelled to wander with their printing tools, and settled in various towns throughout Italy. Wherever they settled they continued their work and published prominent Hebrew books.
Approx. forty fragments (including more than ten large fragments, almost the size of the original leaf, or most of it). Size varies. Various degrees of damage due to use in binding.

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