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Lot 198: JACOB BEN ASHER.
Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts & Autograph Letters
May 2, 2013
New York, NY, USA
(Arbah Turim) Yoreh De'ah [Rabbinic Code] ff. 121 (of 134) lacking 13 leaves. Commences from the middle of "Siman" 5 of the Laws of Slaughter (sig. 2:2) and continues through Siman 389 of the Laws of Mourning, and then further from the middle of Siman 397 through the middle of Siman 404. Lacks seven (of 8) leaves of the first quire except for f. 3 (table of contents) which is here bound in at the end; also lacking the final leaf of the second quire (sig. 2:10) and five leaves (including blank) from the final quire. First leaf neatly taped touching a few letters, final two leaves expertly repaired affecting some text, otherwise a clean copy. Modern elaborately tooled calf. Folio. J. Tedghi, HaSepher Vehadephus Ha'Ivri BeFez (1997) pp. 76-83.
• OF THE UTMOST RARITY. NO COMPLETE COPY EXTANT. THE FIRST HEBREW BOOK PRINTED IN FEZ - INDEED THE FIRST BOOK PRINTED ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT IN ANY LANGUAGE.
According to Yudlov (no. 726) only two copies of the Fez Yoreh De'ah are recorded - both are incomplete. One copy is housed in the Schocken Library, Jerusalem and another copy (also incomplete) that was recently discovered in the University of Alberta, although misdescribed (see S.L. Aranov, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Bension Collection of Sephardic Manuscripts and Texts, University of Alberta (Edmonton,1979) no. 296 ("an incunable and a unicum.") Furthermore, the Mehlman Collection in the National Library of Israel possesses a fragment of just one single leaf. NO OTHER COPY IS RECORDED.
A harsh campaign was waged by King Manuel I and the Church to convert the Jews of Portugal to Christianity, so that by 1497 the choice facing the Jews was either apostasy or exile. Among those who chose the latter were Samuel ben Isaac Nedivot, a printer who had learned the art of printing in the publishing house of Eliezer Toledano in Lisbon.
Samuel Nedivot brought Hebrew typographical equipment with him when he was exiled from his ancestral home in Portugal and upon establishing safe haven across the ocean in Fez, Morocco, he set up the African Continent's very first printing-press of any kind. Along with his son Isaac, Samuel Nedivot produced in Fez some one dozen Hebrew titles over the period of a decade - the present astoundingly rare volume being the first such production (Vinograd, Fez no. 1). These Hebrew books printed by Nedivot in Northern Africa continued the Portuguese artistic style of printing, utilizing the Hebrew fonts that were originally designed in Lisbon. Thus the new intellectual fruit that was reaped in Morocco was a direct result of Jews such as Nedivot having been rudely removed from Portuguese and Spanish shores.
Fez, the former capital, is one of Morocco's four "imperial cities." It became one of the major centers in North Africa for the reversion of Marranos to open-led Judaism. It is suggested the reason that Hebrew printing was short-lived in Morocco was due to unfavorable economic conditions as well as the influence of the adverse reaction of the Islamic world to the use of printing for the benefit of other religions.
See H. Beinart, Fez as a Center of Return to Judaism in the Sixteenth Century, in: Sefunot Vol. VIII (1964) pp. 319-34; J.S. Gerber, Jewish Society in Fez 1450-1700: Studies in Communal and Economic Life (1997)
NO COPY OF THE FEZ TUR HAS EVER APPEARED AT AUCTION.
(Fez, Samuel & Isaac Nedivot), (ca. 1516-17).