Medici Oriental Press, Rome 1584-1614 Typographia Medicea
The Art of Printing The press was founded by Cardinal Ferdinando I de’ Medici (1549-1609), who later became Grand Duke of Tuscany. Politically he supported several military campaigns against the Ottomans and the Barbary principalities, but at the same time he established a press that would have a significant impact on the study of Islam in the West. His considerable financial investments were used to employ an outstanding type-cutter, who manufactured moveable metal type, the superb technical skill of which continues to impress today. The cursive Arabic script reproduced in the works of the Medici Press bettered all previous attempts in Europe, and would remain unsurpassed long after the press had closed.
West meets East The press was not only an intellectual enterprise, it was also a commercial one. Raimondi clearly hoped to sell his books in the East, rather than the West, because the selection of the works he produced showed little consideration with the type of material European scholars in this period needed. While the works failed to sell in the Ottoman Empire, however, they did significantly stimulate the study of the Middle East in Europe.
Ferdinando de’ Medici had ordered Raimondi to print ‘all available Arabic books on permissible human sciences which had no religious content in order to introduce the art of printing to the Mohamedan community.’ Only more than a century after the Medici Press in Rome had closed, did it finally have the envisaged impact in the Levant; Ibrahim Müteferrika, the first Muslim printer, referring to it in his plea to the sultan to allow him to open his own printing house at Istanbul, which happened in 1729.
The collection IDC Publishers now brings together the publications of the Medici Press, the limited number of which is outweighed by their importance for the study of Middle Eastern science and literature; the study of the Muslim world in the West; and book history, both European and Middle Eastern.
The collection contains:
• 1590/91 - The Gospels in two versions (Arabic only, and Arabic and Latin)
• 1592 - Ibn al-Hājib’s (d. 1249) al-Kāfiyya, a tract on Arabic grammar
• 1592 -
Al-Muqaddima al-ājurrūmiyya by the Moroccan scholar, Ibn Ājurrūm
• 1592 - The
Nuzhat al-mushtāq fi dhikr al-amsār, an anonymous abridgement of the
Geography composed by al-Idrīsī (1099-1166), who is known in the West as Dreses
• 1592 -
Alphabetum Arabicum, a Latin introduction to the Arabic alphabet
• 1592/94 - A Missal in Syriac and Karshūnī
• 1593 - Two works by the famous Avicenna (Ibn Sīna),
Al-Qānūn fi al-tibb, known in Europe as the
Canon, and his philosophical work,
Kitāb al-Najāt • 1594 - Euclid’s
Tahrīr usūl li-Uqlidas) in an Arabic recension attributed to Nāsir al-Din al-Tūsī (1201-1274), the Persian philosopher, scientist and mathematician
• 1595 - The Jesuit scholar, Giambattista Eliano’s
I‘tiqād al-amānah al-urtūdūksiyyah (
Tenets of the Orthodox Religion) produced for Eastern Christians
• 1610 - The
Kitāb al-Tasrīf (
Book of Derivation), a work on Arabic grammar, by al-Zanjānī (990/91-1078/9)
• The edition of the Gospels of 1619
These texts document the political, diplomatic, commercial, and cultural relations between the Islamic world and the West in the pre-modern period. Some focus on military conflicts, others on peaceful contacts, but all allow us to reconstruct the shifting images and biases in the West, concerning Muslims and the Islamic world, that are still relevant today.
Well-known works include those by Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq (1520/1-1592); Pietro della Valle (1586-1652); J.B. Tavernier (1605-1689); Jean de Thevenot (1633-1667); John Chardin (1643-1713); Cornelis de Bruyn (le Brun; 1652-1726); J.P. de Tournefort (1656-1708); Richard Pococke (1704-1765); James Bruce (1730-1794); and Carsten Niebuhr (1733-1815).
Less often quoted, but equally interesting are the accounts of Palestine of Jewish travellers in the fifteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century; Chandler's
Travels in Asia Minor; B.E.A. Rottiers,
Itinéraire de Tiflis à Constantinople; and Adolphus Slade's
Records of Travel , and several accounts of travel to Afghanistan, Kurdistan, and Central Asia.
This collection will be published in two parts. This first part contains titles previously published in other IDC collections (Early Western Books, Travels, Armenian Sources).
Early development The new art of printing had a quick impact on the Armenian community. Armenian printing started in 1511, that is within fifty years after the first edition of Gutenberg’s Bible. The early development of the printing press among the Armenians is commonly dated to the years 1511– 1800. Books printed in that period are called in Armenian “hnatip” (old printings). Within this period one distinguishes the period of 1511 – 1695 as the period of Armenian “incunables”; it is the period in which Armenian printing was not yet consolidated, and various efforts in different places were being made to establish printing houses.
Early Armenian printing houses The first Armenian printings were published in Venice. In the 16th and 17th centuries printing in the Ottoman Empire proved to be too difficult. The cities chosen for the printing houses were the European commercial centers; apart from Venice one may mention Livorno, Marseille, Amsterdam. The choice of these places is related to the way these endeavors were financed: the first Armenian printers were financially dependent on the Armenian mercantile network of the time. Early Armenian printing was very much stimulated by the Armenian church who wished to issue the Armenian version of the Bible and other liturgical books in printing. This main goal succeeded in 1666 with the publication of the Bible in Amsterdam by bishop Oskan of Erevan. The books printed in the Armenian printing houses were intended for export to the Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire and Iran. Next to these there originated a European learned and ecclesiastical interest in Armenian Studies; publications that originated from such circles were printed in Milan, Rome and Paris.
Armenian renaissance In the 18th century Armenian book printing was more consolidated. Three main centers emerge: Constantinople, Venice, and Rome. The books printed in Venice and in Constantinople reflect the so-called “Armenian renaissance”, a renewed interest in Armenian history and education, which had its center at the Armenian patriarchate in Constantinople and in the establishment of the Mekhitarist monk order at the island of San Lazzaro in Venice. The printings coming from Rome reflect again the interest of the Vatican in missionary efforts towards Armenia.
This selection The selection offered here is a selection from existing holdings and does not intend to offer a truly representative or systematic overview over the early Armenian editions as a whole. Nevertheless the books from Venice listed below give a very good overview of the early Mekhitarists printings, among them many key works of the founder of the order himself, Mkhitar of Sebaste.
Likewise, the books listed here from the Amsterdam Armenian printing house give a fair view on the total production. Among them are the editiones principes of the Armenian Bible (1666) and of the History of Movses of Chorene.
The books from Constantinople can only offer a glimpse of the total rich production. We are fortunate to find here a number of text-editions that still have not been replaced by more modern ones, among them Athanasius of Alexandria and the Commentary on the Gospel of John by John Chrysostom.
Lastly, the books in this list from Paris and Rome are good samples of the Western learned tradition concerning Armenia that originated in this time.
Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic Printing in Baghdad Rare Printed Books from the Valmadonna Trust Library, London
Printing in Baghdad The Hebrew press in Baghdad was one of the last Hebrew presses established in the Orient. In the 1860s a journal and a few books were produced by lithography, among them
Masa'ot shel Rabi Binyamin [the medieval travelogue of Benjamin of Tudela], one of the lengthiest lithographic books ever printed in Hebrew. Before 1870, movable Hebrew type was introduced by a printer trained in Bombay, and Baghdad became the most prolific center of Hebrew printing in the Orient after Jerusalem and Istanbul. Over the course of 75 years, the Hebrew printers of Baghdad issued over 400 books and pamphlets.
Early printers Most active of the early printers was the scholar and entrepreneur Solomon Bekhor Hutsin (1843-1892), who began as a bookseller. (Hutsin's catalogue of 1872 was the first Hebrew bookseller's catalogue printed anywhere in the Orient.) In 1888 Hutsin launched a new press using type from Leghorn, Italy, an international center of Hebrew printing. Hutsin's more than 70 books, which stand out in aesthetic and content from those of his predecessors, include liturgical works for local use, some older Baghdadi writings, and reprints of Hebrew books first issued in India and Europe.
Dangoor printing house With permission of the Sultan, a new Hebrew printing house was established in 1904 by Ezra Reuben Dangoor (1848-1930), a native of Baghdad who had served as rabbi of Rangoon in Burma. Dangoor, who also used presses and type imported from Europe, was the most productive of the Baghdad printers, issuing over 100 books largely edited by himself. During the British Mandate, several new Hebrew presses were established, notably El Wataniyah Israiliyah, and the press of Elisha Shohet which functioned until 1940. A small number of Hebrew and Judeo- Arabic books were printed during and after the War.
Special liturgies The Hebrew printing at Baghdad covers a limited range of traditional Jewish literature, especially hagiographies and liturgical texts, perhaps the widest variety of special liturgies ever issued in a single Hebrew printing center. The Baghdad imprints also comprise a rich resource for Hebrew liturgical poetry and related poetic compositions (
piyutim), which are often incorporated in non-liturgical works. There are many editions of the Mishnaic treatise Avot and of the Passover Hagadah, most with Judeo-Arabic
Works printed at Baghdad are almost all of Iraqi or oriental authorship. Local authors include the rabbinic scholars Joseph al-Hakam, Abdallah Somekh, and Solomon Twena, who later settled in India and founded a press at Calcutta where he printed over 70 books. A few works of Ashkenazic origin include
segulot by a Hungarian rabbi and two ethical tracts by Lithuanian
maskilim, reprinted from European editions. The many secular works include communal regulations, fables, Hebrew language texts, calendrical treatises, eulogies, as well as historical writings and storybooks, mostly in Judeo-Arabic, among them extracts from the Arabian Nights, tales of Sindbad the sailor, and an account of the House of Rothschild.
Languages Baghdad was one of several dozen towns where Judeo-Arabic was printed, and the most important center of Judeo- Arabic printing after Tunis. Aside from books entirely in Hebrew, a large proportion of the Hebrew-titled books contain some text in Judeo-Arabic. Over 75 of the Hebrew-character books are entirely in Judeo-Arabic, or explicitly in Arabic in Hebrew characters. The Hebrew books are printed in either square or 'Rashi' (cursive) characters, but the Judeo- Arabic books are almost all in square characters, in a few cases with vowel points, useful for pronunciation of Baghdadi Judeo-Arabic. One Judeo- Arabic book was sponsored by a woman. Aside from books in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic, there are several Aramaic targums and the Zoharic
Idra zuta and
Idra raba. There is one edition of the Passover Hagadah with Judeo- Persian translation.
Ornament and Format Like other Hebrew books from the Orient, those printed at Baghdad bear minimal ornamentation. Among ornamental devices are a bird on a tree, a basket of flowers and fruit, a cluster of grapes, and the royal Turkish arms. A few woodcut illustrations include a man blessing wine, a sailboat, a table laden with fruits and vegetables. One volume displays the smoke and smokestack of a locomotive, a symbol of the railroad linking Baghdad with other parts of the Ottoman Empire. A few books contain portraits of the authors (one of the printer Dangoor), uncommon in Hebrew books. Some books make use of colored inks, gold or red. The title pages of Baghdad imprints are often printed only as paper covers, sometimes on colored paper. Many books were printed without title pages, imitating manuscripts.
Most of the imprints are small books, both in length and in physical dimensions. About half are octavos, most of the rest duodecimos or sextodecimos; there are few folios or quartos. The largest book is the two-part legal compendium
Zivhe Tsedek, printed by Joshua Hutsin in 1904. Two of the most curious of the Baghdad imprints are scrolls, among the few instances in Hebrew booklore of printed Esther scrolls, once prohibited by the rabbis.
The Sassoon Collection and the Valmadonna Library The Valmadonna Trust Library, housed in London, is the world's foremost private collection of early and rare Hebraica, especially printed books from Italy, Ottoman Greece, Turkey and Palestine, India, and Baghdad. In 1999 the Trust acquired the remaining rarities from the celebrated library of the Anglo-Jewish bibliophile D. S. Sassoon (1880-1942), whose oriental Hebrew manuscripts and books included the rich corpus of Hebrew printing in Baghdad. The books in the Sassoon collection, together with those in the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem as of 1940, served as the basis for Yaari's
Hebrew Printing in the East.
The Valmadonna Library holds the largest research collection in the world of Hebrew printing from Baghdad, including nearly 50 previously unrecorded titles and many unica, unique surviving copies. Altogether the Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic books from Baghdad comprise an unparalleled resource for the study of oriental printing, Hebrew liturgical history, Judeo-Arabic literature, and the history and culture of the most ancient Jewish Diaspora community. All of these bibliographic treasures are reproduced here for the first time.
Brad Sabin Hill, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York
Arabic Manuscripts in the JNUL, Jerusalem Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem
The Professor Yahuda Collection The well-known orientalist, Prof. Abraham Shalom Yahuda (Jerusalem, 1877 - New Haven, 1951) studied in Heidelberg and Strasbourg, and taught at the Berlin Hochschule, the University of Madrid, and the New School for Social Research in New York. He acquired a valuable collection of manuscripts, particularly Arabic material purchased mainly in Egypt. Parts of his manuscript collection were sold by him to various institutions (see: R. Mach,
Catalogue of Arabic MSS (Yahuda Collection) in the Garrett Collection, Princeton 1977, “Introduction”). The
Yahuda Collection of the JNUL consists of the manuscripts he kept until his death, which were donated to the JNUL by his family; their importance is in no way inferior to that of the manuscripts he sold.
The collection contains 1,155 manuscripts written in Arabic characters, most of them Arabic and about 10 % of them Persian and Ottoman. A considerable part of the collection consists of multititle codices, which brings the total number of titles in the collection to about 3,000.
Approximately one-third of the manuscripts are medieval, dating from the ninth to the sixteenth century.
The contents of the manuscripts include all areas of Islamic and Arabic sciences and Arabic, Persian and Ottoman literature.
Some 400 titles are not listed by Brockelmann or other bibliographical sources, and are thus of great importance for research; for many other titles only single or very few other manuscripts are known, which makes them valuable for textual criticism and critical editions. Of special interest are the medical manuscripts, the majority of which are Persian. A collection of more than 100 Qurans, dating from the ninth to the nineteenth century, vividly illustrates the history of the Quran's calligraphy. A large proportion of the Persian and Ottoman manuscripts are illuminated, and contribute to the history of Persian and Ottoman art.
IDC is offering an edition of the collection of Arabic manuscripts held by the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. This collection consists of over 400 items covered by 394 entries, and includes not only such traditional Islamic disciplines as Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh, but also works on mathematics, astronomy, medicine, falconry, archery and military equitation.
A sizeable proportion of the collection is made up of Shicah literature, with 17 Ismacili manuscripts of Indian provenance. The Shaikhi sect is represented by 37 tracts and responsa of Kazim al-Rashti (no. 277). Among the manuscripts the reader will find some with parallel or interlinear translation into a number of languages such as Coptic (nos. 46, 187), French (no. 376), Italian (no. 29), Malay (nos. 35, 77, 230, 231, 287, 312, 378), Persian (nos. 25, 64, 102, 248, 251, 287, 341), and Swahili (nos. 201, 246, 255). The earliest manuscript in the collection is dated 885 after Christ.
The printed catalogue The catalogue was compiled by Adam Gacek, formerly of the library of the SOAS and at present librarian of the Institute of Ismaeli Studies in London. The catalogue, published by the SOAS in 1985 (a reprint with corrections from the earlier edition of 1981) (306 pages, 12 ill.), comes with the microfiche edition, but is also available separately from the library of the SOAS.
The entries are arranged alphabetically by title, with references grouped together and directly preceding the letter sequence. The alphabetical order has been adjusted to accommodate the system of transliteration, the additional letters being placed as follows: d, dh, d: g, gh: h, h: k, kh: s, sh, s: t, th, t. (This does not apply to the sequence of letters within a word).
The catalogue has five indexes (subject, person's name, verses, chronological, and numerical).
Arabic Manuscripts on Islamic Law collection covers a wide period, with manuscripts dating from the 12th to the 20th century C.E. Several of the included titles are not listed by Brockelmann or in other bibliographical sources. These works are thus of great importance for research. For many other titles only single or very few other manuscripts are known, which makes them valuable for textual criticism and critical editions.