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LANDMARKS IN HEBREW PUBLISHINGThe world of the Jewish book is as great and rich as the world of Judaism itself. From the earliest handwritten scrolls to today's computer typesetting, the story of the Jewish book is a story of people communicating across continents and generations. Wherever the Jewish people have dwelled, the scribe and the printer have followed the teacher and the Rabbi so that the learning process could continue.The invention of printing was a unique event in the history of the Mesora, (the transmission of Jewish traditions from Sinai to present times). A change in information technology which happened outside the Jewish world, had a profound effect on the methodology of Torah study. The invention of printing came at a most fortuitous time. With the scattering of Spanish Jewry across Europe and around the Mediterranean following the Spanish expulsion in 1492, there was a traumatic break in the smooth flow of the Mesora, effectively closing the era of the Early Commentators. The invention of printing softened this blow by providing the means whereby communities in exile could consult with the great leaders of earlier generations through their writings.Rabbinic leaders were highly enthusiastic about the new technology. The craft of printing was considered an Avodat HaKodesh - holy work, and the printing press was likened to an alter. A later commentator (Maharit Chayot - Germany 19th century) compared it to the art of 'writing with many pens' referred to in the second temple in Tractate Yuma 38b.The first book printed entirely in Hebrew letters, Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch was printed in Rome about 1470, only 14 years after Gutenberg printed his bible. Within a decade Hebrew printing had spread from Italy to Spain and Constantinople with the press of Gerson and Joshua Solomon at Soncin near Cremona being the most active.Here are a few landmark dates and events in early Hebrew printing:1475 - First dated Hebrew work is printed in Reggio di Calabria1482 - First Spanish Hebrew book printed in Guadaljara1492 - Expulsion from Spain and destruction of Hebrew books1503 - David Nahmias begins printing in Constantinople1512 - Beginning of Hebrew printing in Salonika1475 - 1530 The Soncinos print in Mantua, Naples, Brescia, Cassal Maggiore, Barca, Fano, Pesaro, Ortona, Rimini and Constantinople1513 - Press of Gershon Solomon Cohen in Prague prints prayer book1520 - Daniel Bomberg of Venice prints the first complete Talmud edition. The Venice community sends a copy to Henry VIII of England as a gift1533 - Hayim ben David Schwartz moves his press from Prague to Augsburg Germany1542 - Beginning of censorship of Hebrew books by the Roman Curia1550 - Giustiniani and Bragadini enter into competition with Bomberg in Venice1554 - The burning of the Talmud at Ferrara and closing of the Venice printers1556 - First edition of Zohar is saved in Mantua but Zioni commentary is burned1565 - Printing resumes in Venice and first edition of Shulkan Aruch appears1569 - Isaac ben Aaron of Prossnitz prints in Cracow1578 - The Talmud begins to appear in Basel1627 - Gutel the daughter of Leb Setzer prints in Prague1627 - Menasheh ben Israel and Daniel De Fonseca begin printing in Amsterdam1658 - Uri Phoebus begins printing in Amsterdam and in Zolkiev in 16921697 - Jacob Proops begins printing in AmsterdamBy 1700 dozens of Hebrew presses were continuously active in Eastern Europe, Italy, and the Mediteranean Countries and printing continued in Western Europe in Germany itself even as late as 1940. The Nazi destruction of Jewish civilization in Europe included not only the murder of Jewish people but the erasing of Jewish culture by burning Jewish books in synagogues, libraries, and homes. During WWII refugees printed Hebrew books in such exotic locations as Beirut, Johannesburg, Harbin and Shanghai but the great centers of Hebrew printing continued to migrate until today they are in New York and Jerusalem, both of which were unknown for Hebrew publishing in the 18th century.