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current five most influential publishers
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Have you ever wondered who are the current five most influential publishers in the Jewish literary world?

Or have you ever been intrigued by the general history of Jewish publishing?

The answer to both these questions begins at advent of Jewish publishing itself. The earliest known Jewish publication was in the year 1487; we know this from the trademark that printer's placed on their title page. Common practice for publishers in those days. Using a trademark - away back - was the adopted practice not only of publishers, all medieval artisans used it as proof of their personal handiwork and proof of property. Hebrew book publishers continued to use this practice (of placing emblems as a trademark) as late as the nineteenth century.

The First Printing:

A pivotal point in Jewish printing began in 1484, when Joshua Solomon Soncino, printed the Babylonian Talmud. The oft used Tractate on blessings (Berachot) was the first volume printed, included in the folio's margins were commentaries. This format was adapted into the current well-known layout of the Talmud that has commentary text running alongside the Talmud's text. The families non too Jewish name was adopted from the Italian town where the Soncine family was most active. Unfortunately, unstable political winds in Italy meant that the Soncine family press had to be moved and reestablished numerous times. Their first move was to the Ottoman Empire in 1527. They settled in Salonika where there was a large Jewish populace.

Gershom Ben Moshe Soncine, Joshua's nephew, ran the family business at the time. He was also known as one of the most prolific publisher's in his day. He published one hundred volumes between 1489 -1534 in Latin, Greek and Italian. Later in 1557 the Soncino's were forced to move again, this time to Egypt, where Joshua's grandson, also named Gershom, took over the printing press.


Bomberg was born in Antwerp, belgium, and later moved to Venice. There, he set up his own press. Though a Christian, he was one of the most influential Hebrew Printers of his time and was the first to print the Mikraot Gedolos edition of the Bible. His typography layout was so well received that he printed - in similar style - two complete editions of the Talmud. His pagination of the Talmud was also adopted as the standard format. Because of steep competition in his later years, he fell on hard times. Still, he remained a well respected by his competitors for his distinct style.

Gershom ben Solomon Kohen:

In 1514, Gershom ben Solomon Kohen, brought together a number of craftsman and two financial backers in order to set up Eastern Europe's first Hebrew Press. Kohen, who was obviously a "Kohen" (a Jewish priest descended from Aaron), played an important role in this group; because the cover page of the press's Pentateuch had an artists rendering of the raised hands of a Kohen during the priestly blessing (see image). In 1552 the partnership he had formed, dissipated. He formed a new press with his brother at his side. There press is the first known shop to produce an illustrated Hagaddah, which they released in 1526. Eventually, the vast amount of books they produced were distributed throughout Eastern Europe.

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