Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Ha-'Esrim ve-'Arba'[ah] (The Twenty-Four Holy Books, i.e. The Hebrew Bible) [BOUND WITH:] Tiberias, sive Commentarius Masorethicus triplex historicus didacticus criticus ad illustrationem Operis Biblici (A Three-fold Historical, Didactic, and Critical Commentary on the Masora for the Illustration of the Hebrew Bible)

Basel: Ludwig König, 1619. First edition (in part). Hardcover. Eight parts in three volumes, folio (biblical texts and commentary in four parts, continuously foliated; three supplemental sections, each with separate foliation; Tiberias (1655), with separate pagination, here bound after the Haftarot) - Vol. 1: [6, title and prelims], 1-228, [1, sect. title], 234-441, [1, blank]ff. Vol. 2: [1, sect. title], 442-705, [1, blank], 707-837, [1, blank]ff. Vol. 3: 839-881, [1, blank], 883-946; 8 (Targum Yerushalmi; last leaf unfoliated); 67 (Masorah), [1, blank]; [1, title], 2-36 (Haftarot)ff.; [8, title and prelims], 108pp. Despite the gap in foliation between the first and second parts, and numerous errors in foliation throughout, the Rabbinic Bible collates complete, with all blanks noted in Prijs (Die Basler hebräischen Drucke), and the Haftarot bound at the end. Largely arranged in two columns of biblical texts in square font, surrounded by commentaries in rabbinic (Rashi) font; biblical texts read from right to left. This copy with collective Hebrew title surrounded by biblical quotations in Hebrew, set within elaborate woodcut architectural borders; brief preface in Hebrew by Abraham Braunschweig at the verso. Hebrew sectional titles, set within the same woodcut borders, for the three other biblical sections and the Haftarot (with a plain letterpress half-title for the Five Megillot). Opening word of each biblical book set in large (one-third to one-half page) cartouche vignettes with elaborate woodcut borders and surrounding letterpress Hebrew text. Main title Jewish date chronogram = [5]378 (1618-1619). Near-contemporary half calf over speckled boards (worn and rubbed); spines with raised bands, gilt morocco lettering pieces, and old paper labels (heavily faded). About two-thirds of the text embrowned (ranging from minimal to moderately heavy); worm tracing in a 1- by 2-inch section at leaves 541-553 (affecting text). A good, complete set, notably containing the Ashkenazi Haftarot readings, not found in all copies.

Sixth Rabbinic Bible (in Hebrew: Mikra'ot Gedolot), edited by Johann Buxtorf I (1565-1629), professor of Hebrew at the University of Basel, and the foremost Christian Hebraist of his era, with the assistance of the Jewish scholars, Abraham Braunschweig, who served as the principal corrector, and Mordechai Gumplin of Posen. This was "a truly audacious undertaking for his time" (Burnett), as no Christian scholar had yet attempted to edit the entire biblical corpus, including the Aramaic versions (Targumim) and masoretic notes. Based mainly on the third Rabbinic Bible published by Daniel Bomberg at Venice in 1546-1548, the editor has carefully incorporated elements from two other Venetian editions. At the verso of the Latin title Buxtorf provides a detailed bibliographical excursus on the earlier Venetian editions and offers a tribute to Bomberg's industry by reprinting the colophon of the second Venetian Rabbinic Bible (1524-1525) at the conclusion of the masoretic appendix, with text by the Hebrew grammarian and lexicographer, Elijah Levita (1468 or 1469-1549) and a new introduction by Abraham Braunschweig. The design of the sectional titles and separate book title vignettes closely model those of the Venetian editions. "Buxtorf did not plan simply to reprint one of the existing Venice editions, but rather to assemble the best features of them all into one work" and "to provide theologians with what he considered the most important tools for interpreting the Old Testament" (Burnett). Buxtorf served in an official capacity as Basel's Hebrew censor, charged with the oversight of all Jewish printing in the city, and insuring that "no 'blasphemies' or slurs against Christians or Christianity appear in any book printed in Basel" (Burnett). He carefully edited the Jewish commentaries in the Rabbinic Bible in accordance with this mandate, "and removed many words and phrases which had escaped the attention of earlier censors" (Burnett).

The Rabbinic Bible contains the vocalized Masoretic text of the Hebrew Scriptures, with accents, and a vocalized Targum, an Aramaic paraphrase of the biblical text: Onkelos for the Pentateuch; Jonathan b. Uzziel for the Prophets; and Targum Hagiographa for the Writings. The Hebrew and Aramaic versions are printed in square characters and presented in facing columns at the center of each page. (The Jerusalem Targum of the Pentateuch appears as an appendix.) In addition to the Aramaic paraphrases, the Rabbinic Bible includes a massive scholarly apparatus of biblical commentaries by Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Baal ha-Turim (Jacob b. Asher), R. David Kimchi (Radak), R. Levi b. Gershon (Ralbag), Saadia Gaon, and R. Isaiah, along with the Masora, a corpus of critical notes on the external form of the Biblical text, compiled by Jewish scholars from late antiquity through the medieval era. As frequently occurs, a copy of Buxtorf's work on the textual history of the Hebrew Bible, Tiberias (the 1655, revised edition), is bound-in. This work was made possible by the publication in 1538 of Elijah Levita's Masoret ha-Masoret, a commentary on the Masora, which Buxtorf translated into Latin for his own private use in 1593. While "Buxtorf was concerned with the integrity of the consonantal text and the origin and integrity of the vowel points and accents of the Hebrew Bible from the very beginning of his scholarly career." While he had earlier published a long excursus on the age of the vowel points and accents in his 1609 Thesaurus Grammaticus, "Tiberias is Buxtorf's fullest and most impressive work on the history of the biblical text" (Burnett). Intended as a reference work for Christian students and scholars interested in studying the Masora, Buxtorf was also keen to refute the view advanced by Levita that the Hebrew vowel points were early medieval innovations. Our folio version of Tiberias was intended to accompany the Rabbinic Bible, and has the same architectural borders at the title. König also published a quarto edition in the same year, but only the folio version includes a critical commentary on the Masora, in which Buxtorf proposes various corrections to the Masoretic notes.

As noted at the title, Buxtorf's faithful study and tireless labor (studio fido et labore indefesso) yielded notably long-lasting results: "The Basel rabbinical Bible became a standard tool for research among Christian scholars and would remain so... until the end of the nineteenth century" (Burnett). A vast array of early modern scholars, including Protestants like Johannes Drusius and John Selden, as well as Roman Catholics like Robert Bellarmine and Andreas Masius owned a copy (or two) of the Rabbinic Bible. "Johannes Buxtorf's thoroughly censored "Christian" version of the Rabbinic Bible (Basel, 1618-19) only made it easier for Hebraists to own copies of their own" (Burnett, Christian Hebraism in the Reformation Era, p.163).

A note on the date of publication: "The actual printing began between the mid-August and mid-September of 1618. According to the colophon, production ended on the 24 of Ab, 379 (= August 4, 1619), but since this date also appeared on the colophon of the Bomberg Biblia rabbinica edition of 1524-25 (reprinted unchanged in the 1546-48 and 1568 editions) it is suspect. Prijs suggested that the probable completion date was sometime during Ab of 379, between July 12 and August 10 of 1619" (Burnett). Good. Item #52679

References: Biblia Sacra: Burnett 7. Cowley 87. Darlow & Moule 5120, like our copy, bound with the 1665 second edition of Tiberias (cf. 5093). Davidson, Otsar ha-shirah, vol.1, p.406, no.8954. Prijs 219. Steinschneider 423, 423b. VD17 23:675325G. S. Burnett, Christian Hebraism in the Reformation Era (Leiden: Brill, 2012), p.163. Tiberias: Burnett 114. Prijs 272a. For detailed analyses of both works see: S. Burnett, From Christian Hebraism to Jewish Studies (Leiden: Brill, 1996), pp.169-239 (chaps. 6 & 7).

Price: $4,500.00

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