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The Partners of Bologna and the First Printed Edition of SEFER HASIDIM

Tue, December 18, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 1 Complex

Abstract

This paper is a study of SEFER ḤASIDIM, a Hebrew text originating in the medieval Rhineland, in its first printed edition of 1538. While SEFER ḤASIDIM has long been appreciated as a witness to the history of medieval Jewish-Christian relations, little attention has been paid to the work’s “afterlife” in the early modern period or the printed editions through which it was known to early moderns. The EDITIO PRINCEPS was produced by a group of Jewish silk entrepreneurs who called themselves “the partners” in the city of Bologna. This paper begins by identifying the partners and situating their efforts historically within early modern Bologna, the Jewish community and the silk trade there. The bulk of the paper is a comparison of their edition and the extant SEFER ḤASIDIM manuscripts that predated their edition. The comparison indicates how the partners innovated in three primary editorial areas: (1) They ascribed the authorship of their edition to the medieval pietist R. Judah he-Ḥasid; (2) they prefaced the text with a lengthy table of contents; and (3) they censored the text to eliminate a number of (implied and explicit) references to Christianity and Christians. This comparison demonstrates that the EDITIO PRINCEPS of SEFER ḤASIDIM was not merely a duplication and popularization of a medieval manuscript or manuscripts, but rather a creative act reflective of print shop, literary, and Jewish culture in early modern Italy.

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