Hebrew Printing in Bohemia and Moravia

Academia  –  The Jewish Museum in Prague, Prague 2012

The book contains essays by several authors who are interested in the subject matter – Hebrew printing in the Bohemian Lands – and deal with the topic from diverse perspectives. Some of them are historians, specialists in Jewish studies, some are library specialists, some have curatorial experience. They were all given full scope to write about what it is about this topic that they are currently most interested in. The result is the first complex monograph treating the phenomenon from the point of view of Jewish studies, history and Czech booklore studies.

Pavel Sládek approaches the topic from a wider angle of cultural history and introduces us into the world where the letter-press and the book printing were still technological novelties to show how they were viewed and used by the public. First essay by Olga Sixtová gives a survey of Hebrew printing in the years 1512 – 1672, the second deals in detail with the earliest period of the Prague Hebrew typography and ornamentation of the books; at the end a detailed bibliography of the first fifty years is presented (1512-1569). The original study by Petr Voit employs the unique collection of decorative material assembled during the research to show the high level of collaboration of Prague Jewish printers of the first half of the 16th century with their Christian counterparts. Andrea Jelínková and Lenka Veselá present a summarizing view of the subjects which they are familiar with from their previous studies: Hebrew printing in Prostejov (Prostitz) and Christian Hebrew typography in Bohemian lands.  Shlomo Z. Berger views the Prague Yiddish printing business with a slightly critical eye; no doubt tempted to do so by comparison with another important center of Jewish publishing, Amsterdam. Alexandr Putík deals with his favourite topic, censorship and denunciation affairs with obvious gusto. He presents an assessment and interpretation of the so-far unpublished archival material, which may subvert long-established views. With her usual precision and gentle wit Iveta Cermanová furthers her close scrutiny of the beginnings of the ends of Prague Hebrew printing, but also ventures in a new direction when she focuses on Moses Israel Landau, a prominent Prague Jewish intellectual, whose publishing activities in the first half of the 19th century represents the last creative period of the history of Hebrew printing in Bohemian lands.

Among more than two hundred illustrations, the reader may leaf through to many unpublished pictures. The graphic design of the book (DIVUS – Dita Lamačová and Blanka Brixová) was inspired by the appearance of early Hebrew printed books. Edited by Olga Sixtová.

The book may be bought on-line or in the Robert Guttmann Gallery.

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