Early Hebrew Printing from Lublin to Safed: The Journeys of Eliezer ben Isaac Ashkenazi

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Eliezer ben Isaac Ashkenazi, an itinerant printer, plied his trade for several decades in the second half of the sixteenth century in eastern Europe and the Middle East. Active in Lublin, Constantinople, and Safed, Eliezer was the first to print books in Erez Israel. His ability to move between and function in these disparate locations is an example of the fluidity of contemporary Jewish society. Eliezer's motivation in relocating reflects both the political and economic reality of sixteenth-century Jewish life as well as Eliezer's personal circumstances. The wide spectrum of the books printed by Eliezer reflects the diverse interests and needs of these Jewish communities, encompassing Talmudic treatises, Kabbalistic commentaries, and poetry.

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The first Jewish printing activities in the Ottoman period started with the initiatives of the Sephardic Jews who had to leave Spain due to the exile. Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazi Jews, who were forced to immigrate from Poland and the surrounding areas, wanted to create works of their own religion and culture by continuing their printing activities in Thessaloniki, Edirne, Izmir and Istanbul. Even though the first Jewish printing house was established in 1493 during the Ottoman period, intensive publication of works only occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries. The first Jewish journalistic activities came to the fore in Izmir in 1842. After that, they spread to Istanbul and intensified in both cities. This study aims to deal with Jewish printing activities, which existed in the Ottoman period, within the scope of political and social processes. In the article covering the period between 1493 and 1922, the printing activities of the Jews were examined using the document analysis method. As a result, in spite of intermittent pauses in printing activities during the Ottoman period, it still experienced a successful growth over time. The Ottoman government’s permission for the Jews, as a non-Muslim nation, to conduct printing activities was a socially and commercially important move, especially when Muslims in the region were not using the printing press. The constant presence of religious themes in Jewish works can be attributed to the attempt to preserve their religious identities due to their exile from Spain, being a minority in the places they migrated to, and the fear of annihilation. The fact that they turned to literature and science in the works they published in the following process can be expressed as both the decrease in their sense of threat over time and an effort to assess and utilize the deep-rooted culture they received from Spain.
Kashti's criticism must be tempered by the fact that just as he returned to the Jabez brothers, he also printed again with Eliezer (see below
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Earliest Printed Editions(see note 5), pp.349–50 and Avraham Yaari,Hebrew Printers' Marks(Jerusalem, 1943; repr
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Sefer Lekab Tov25Jerusalem: Bet ha-sefarim ha-le'umi veha-universita'i
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The Hebrew Press in Safed(Safed: Rubin Mass, n. d., repr. inStudies in the History of Hebrew Printers
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The First Printed Book Produced at Constantinople, repr. inA Choice of Corals: Facets of Fifteenth-Century Hebrew Printing(Nieuwkoop, 1992), pp. 102–32; andidem., ‘The Printing History of the Constantinople Hebrew Incunable of 1493: A Mediterranean Voyage of Discovery
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Hebrew Printing at Constantinople30Jerusalem
  • Avraham Yaari
Variants in Old Books
  • I For The Dating Ofsha 'arei Durasee
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a commentary on Psalms 112–34 written as a‘Korban Todah’[Thanks Offering], upon his recovery from an illness lasting from 1569 to 1571 That part of the book on Psalms 120–34(Shir ha-Maalot, Songs of Ascent) was reprinted in Cracow (1576) asNe'im Zemirot
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  • Perhaps Best Known For Hismizmor Le-Todah
Catalogue of the Hebrew Books in the British Museum(London, 1867; reprint Norwich: the Trustees of the British Museum
  • Studies Habermann