A 1782 Haggadah with Yiddish Commentaries

by Henry Poehlein FCRH ’22

Printed in Amsterdam in 1782 by Yohanan Levi Rofe and his brother-in-law Barukh, Haggadah shel Pesah: an merkung Enyeh Hagodeh oyf zolkhe ahrt in es Taytshe izt nimahlen in der velt geyezn is a Passover Haggadah with contains two sections, one written in Hebrew containing the Haggadah with commentaries, and the other, written in Yiddish containing Jewish songs and commentaries pertaining to the Passover holiday.[i] It also contains a kabbalistic commentary by Elhanan ben Moses of Schnaittach (Elḥanan Shnaṭikh), Arba’ Yesodot.

Hagadah Shel Pesaḥ : An Merkung Eyneh Hagodeh Oyf Zolkhe Ahrṭ in Eś Ṭayṭshe Izṭ Nimahlen in Der Ṿelṭ Geṿezn (Amsterdam: Be-vet ubi-defus Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe ṿe-giso Barukh ṿe-eḥaṿ, bi-shenat 543 [1782/3]). Spec Coll Judaica 1782 1

The book itself is not fancy in any way. It has a simple dark brown cover with no writing on it, with leather spine, which has faded Hebrew characters on it, and very small toolings. The book is 24 centimeters wide and contains 54 leaves. A book this size would not be able to fit into a pocket but could most likely be used in a household at the Passover Seder. The book is must have been used relatively often or for a long time, as many pages have dirt marks on them, water and wine stains, and ripped corners. Some pages are completely discolored from the stains. Some of the stains appear to be from water. Other stains are darker and look like wine, not unusual for Passover Haggadot. Some drop stains in yellow color; they appear to be wax from a candle. On one page, there are three small burn holes (fig. 1). The condition of this book clearly indicates frequent usage and handling.

Fig. 1. Burn holes

The typeset used shows many fonts, distinct for Hebrew and Yiddish sections. The printer uses larger fonts at the beginning of a section, or verse and as titles (fig. 2). The printer uses bigger fonts as he states the laws in the second half of the book.  A section from Elḥanan Shnaṭikh’s commentary on the Haggadah has a classic layout with a central text surrounded by commentaries (Fig. 3)

Fig. 2. Fragment of a page with laws concerning the counting of Omer, running head in large square Hebrew font, with laws in Yiddish, each paragraph beginning with a word in larger font.
Fig. 3. Section of Haggadah with Elhanan Shnaṭikh’s commentary Yesod Ha-Ahavah

In the book there are no annotations of any kind. There is one word handwritten in the book, along with a few drawn lines. There is also no color in this book, and almost no illustrations, indicating that it was not expensive. The one decorative element in the book is in black ink and looks like a bush of some kind. The illustration is also not very large, taking up less than a quarter of a page.

Although most of the pages are in poor condition, the binding of the book is still very tight, and indicates that the book has been recently rebound.

Passover is a Jewish holiday, which reminds Jews of their ancestors’ history as slaves in Egypt and how they managed to survive and flee. The celebration usually takes place around the dinner table, as family members get together and read from the Haggadah. The holiday continues to be widely celebrated across the Jewish community, as recent studies show that over 90% of all Jews celebrate yearly.[ii] To celebrate Passover, however, a family must have a haggadah. During Passover, family members are asked to spill droplets of wine on the book itself, which explains many, but not all, of the stains in the book.

The Haggadah with Shatnikh’s commentary Arba Yesodot was four times in the eighteenth century: 1782, 1788, and 1789 in Offenbach, and the 1782/3 Amsterdam edition, discussed here. The printer Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe in Amsterdam came from a family of printers and booksellers, who began printing in Amsterdam in mid-eighteenth century: Hirsz Levi Rofe, Yohanan’s brother, and Barukh, their brother-in-law.[iii] In 1797, Yohanan was joined by his son Benjamin, and they continued to print together till 1818.[iv] It is clear that they specialized in prayer books and liturgical texts for Ashkenazi Jews across Europe.

 Their books were published in Hebrew and Yiddish, the most common language spoken by Jews of northern and eastern Europe. The use of the Yiddish language has been used for centuries, with the first known writing dating back to the 14th century.[v] This language was used predominantly by Ashkenazi Jews, and the language itself combined both Hebrew and German.[vi] After printing was introduced in the Jewish community in the 15th century, the majority of works printed were in Hebrew, however, it was not long until works were translated and printed into Yiddish, the first book in Yiddish was published in 1534 in Cracow.[vii] Although this new, exciting idea of printing brought with it many books for people to buy, certain communities did not always agree with what was printed.

The book discussed here incorporates both Hebrew and Yiddish, making the laws and meaning of Passover accessible for those who may have only spoken Yiddish (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Pages from the section on Laws of Pesah with Shnatikh’s commentary Yesod ha-yirah in Yiddish.

Henry Poehlein is a senior at Fordham University. He wrote this paper in the fall of 2018, during his first semester at Fordham in Professor Magda Teter’s class HIST 1851 “Jews in the Modern World.”


Bibliography:

Shnaṭikh, Elḥanan. Hagadah Shel Pesaḥ : An Merkung Eyneh Hagodeh Oyf Zolkhe Ahrṭ in Eś Ṭayṭshe Izṭ Nimahlen in Der Ṿelṭ Geṿezn … Ez Zaynen Arbaʻ Yesodot Ṿe-Arbaʻ ʻamude ʻolam Nehmlekh Dizeh Yesod Ha-Yirʼah Yesod Ha-Ahavah Di Andere Tsvey Yesod Ha-ʻavodah Yesod Ha-Berakhah Geheysn Ṿerdn. Nidpas be-Amśṭerdam : Be-vet uvi-defus Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe ṿe-giso Barukh ṿe-aḥiṿ, [5]543 [1782 or 1783], 1782.

Shoham, Hizky. “You Can’t Pick Your Family:Celebrating Israeli Familism around the Seder Table.” Journal of Family History 39, no. 3 (2014): 239-60.

Weinstein, Miriam. Yiddish : A Nation of Words. South Royalton, Vt. : Steerforth Press., c2001.


Notes

[i] Hagadah Shel Pesaḥ : An Merkung Eyneh Hagodeh Oyf Zolkhe Ahrṭ in Eś Ṭayṭshe Izṭ Nimahlen in Der Ṿelṭ Geṿezn … Ez Zaynen Arbaʻ Yesodot Ṿe-Arbaʻ ʻamude ʻolam Nehmlekh Dizeh Yesod Ha-Yirʼah Yesod Ha-Ahavah Di Andere Tsvey Yesod Ha-ʻavodah Yesod Ha-Berakhah Geheysn Ṿerdn (Nidpas be-Amśṭerdam : Be-vet uvi-defus Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe ṿe-giso Barukh ṿe-aḥiṿ, [5]543 [1782 or 1783], 1782), Non-fiction.

[ii] Hizky Shoham, “You Can’t Pick Your Family:Celebrating Israeli Familism around the Seder Table,” Journal of Family History 39, no. 3 (2014).

[iii] Sefer Magishe minḥah (Amśṭerdam : Be-vet uvi-defus ha-meshutafim Hirts Leṿi Rofe ṿe-ḥatano Ḳashman mokhre sefarim, 514- [1753 or 1754]); Maḥzor ke-minhag Polin, Raisen, Liṭa, Fihem, Merherin (Amśṭerdam : Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe ṿe-giso Barukh ṿe-eḥaṿ Hirts mokhre sefarim, 526 [1766])

[iv] Zot Ḥanukat ha-bayit (Amsṭerdam : be-vet uvi-defus Yoḥanan Levi Rofe u-veno Binyamin, [5]557 [1797]);  Seder tefilot mi-kol ha-shanah : ke-minhag Ashkenaz u-Folin (Amśterdam : Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe u-veno Binyamin, 1818).

[v] Miriam Weinstein, Yiddish: A Nation of Words (South Royalton, Vt. : Steerforth Press., c2001).

[vi] Weinstein.

[vii] Magda,Teter, and Edward Fram, “Apostasy, Fraud, and the Beginnings of Hebrew Printing in Cracow,” AJS Review 30, no. 1 (2006): 31-66.

Fordham’s Abudarham: Who Crossed out the Censors’ Signatures? (Part 4)

A note from Magda Teter, the Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies: In November 2018, Fordham University acquired the Sefer Aburdarham published in Venice 1546 at an auction held by the Kestenbaum Auction House of some items of the important Valmadonna Hebraica collection, along with two other items. The book had been digitized by NLI before being sold. This year, as part of our work on an upcoming exhibition on history of censorship, we asked Mr. Fabrizio Quaglia, a Hebraica and Judaica consultant in Italy and an expert on Italian censorship of Jewish books to uncover the secrets old books hold within their pages. Part I  explored a note in the upper left corner of the title page. Part II dealt with another note, on the printed ornate letters of the book’s titlePart III deals with the marks left by Christian censors. This is the final installment.


On the right side of colophon appears the peculiar note “dia que senorio yaque [or “ya que”] espinoza en: 13 de adar [“March”] de 1613 [?]”, referred to a mr. Jacob [?] Espinoza, but whose overall meaning escapes me. Known historical records note a merchant Jacob de Spinoza (also called Jacob Espinosa and d’Espinosa), descendant of a converso Portuguese family, who lived in Cairo and Amsterdam in 1630s; he was cousin of Baruch Spinoza. Perhaps Yaque Espinoza was one of the owners of the book, in addition to the heirs of Jacob Pogetto, discussed in the earlier parts.

But after the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century provenance marks, there is a huge chronological gap until the book came to the hands of its last private owner – the diamond merchant and famed book collector Jack V. Lunzer (1924-2016) – before Fordham University bought this book at an auction in 2018. We do not know when and from where Lunzer had purchased the book. The books Luzner collected were often tattered and incomplete so he sometimes would buy duplicates to create “good” and “undamaged” copies. In this copy of Abudarham, the first and the last leaves were neatly cut to new margins. It is possible that these sheets came from different copies, which in turn could explain the puzzling presence on the title page of two effaced expurgation notes whereas on the colophon they remained intact. All the more that the first censor’s note on the title page was written in 1590 and the one on the last page near the colophon in 1582. Yet, it is the later signature that was effaced. And so, while at first sight it would be appear that one censor may have eliminated the previous censor’s written testimony of an intervention on the book, the fact that it was the later note that was effaced makes this theory untenable. Moreover, no censor would have ever dared to eliminate the signature of a previous censor. Accordingly, I would suggest that  Lunzer might have bound together two different copies of Abudarham and that in the first a later Jewish owner crossed out the censors’ signature while in the second copy another owner, contemporary to the time of the Church expurgations, had to keep the expurgator’s signatures untouched under threat of a fine. But we cannot tell for sure what happened.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I also found in Parma Cod. 3220, f. 272r, a crossed out notes of censorship from 1590 Asti by Vincenzo de Matelica and G.B. Porcelli with almost the same wording as it appears in Fordham’s Abudarham. That manuscript was owned by the sons of Ya‘aqov b. Mordekay Poieṭo and afterwards by Shelomoh Poieṭo alone. It contains on the last (fifth) volume of the series (Parma, Cod. 3224, f. 128r) the same “clean” censors’ inscriptions by Asinari and Carato, date included, I reported above. Therefore, it is also possible that on Fordham copy, necessarily unbroken since its publication, Shelomoh himself or another Poggetto could have mysteriously left intact one pair of signatures but crossed out the others.

In my closing remarks I want to note that in  1948 Lunzer, who was born in Antwerp in 1924, founded in London what he called the Valmadonna Trust Library. The Valmadonna Trust Library was once considered the largest private Jewish library in the world. Its name derives from Valmadonna, a suburb of Alessandria in Piedmont, with which the family of Lunzer’s wife Ruth Zippel (d. 1978) once had ties. After the II World War Lunzer tried to buy land in Valmadonna and maybe locate his ever increasing collection there, but he was unable because of various bureaucratic quibbles related to property transfers. Fordham’s copy of Abudarham is in its way a heritage of the Piedmontese Jewry. It traveled from Asti to  London to New York, ultimately failing to reach the surroundings of Alessandria, which is located only 24 miles from the place where the book’s oldest certified owner lived.

The Fordham Abudarham: Disclosures and Conjectures (Part 3: Christian censors)

by Fabrizio Quaglia

A note from Magda Teter, the Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies: In November 2018, Fordham University acquired the Sefer Aburdarham published in Venice 1546 at an auction held by the Kestenbaum Auction House of some items of the important Valmadonna Hebraica collection, along with two other items. The book had been digitized by NLI before being sold. This year, as part of our work on an upcoming exhibition on history of censorship, we asked Mr. Fabrizio Quaglia, a Hebraica and Judaica consultant in Italy and an expert on Italian censorship of Jewish books to uncover the secrets old books hold within their pages. Part I  explored a note in the upper left corner of the title page. Part II dealt with another note, on the printed ornate letters of the book’s title. Today’s installment deals with the marks left by Christian censors.


Next to the printer’s mark of Marco Antonio Giustiniani (with an image of the Dome of the Rock with an inscription בית המקדש “The Holy Temple” as a representation of the Temple of Jerusalem) is a crossed-out censor’s note “Ego fr[ater] vi[ncentiu]s de Ma[teli]ca fr.[ate]r or[din]is predicator[um] et vicarius s[anc]ti off[i]cij As[ten]is correxi de Ma[nda]to … R[everen]di p[atri]s inq[uisitor]is …” (“I, friar Vincenzo from Matelica friar of the Order of the Preachers and Deputy of the Holy Office of Asti, corrected by command … of the Reverend Father Inquisitor …). It is followed by another note, likewise crossed out, “Fr.[ate]r Jo.[annes] bap[ti]sta porcellus Inq.[uisit]or Asten.[si]s die. 15. 8bris 1590 (“Friar Giovanni Battista Porcelli, inquisitor of Asti, day 15 October 1590”). Similar inscriptions, almost verbatim, can be found in an Italian manuscript of the Tur by Jacob ben Asher now in the Palatina Library of Parma, Cod. Parm. 2901, f. [11]r.

The author of the first note, Friar Vincenzo da Matelica was born around 1550 in Matelica in the Marches (Central Italy), where he was apparently a rabbi (his Hebrew name is unknown) before converting to Christianity and becoming a preacher. His competence in Hebrew and rabbinic literature led him to become a professor of Hebrew, or as scholar Germano Maifreda put it “docente di lingua ebraica.” It is known that Friar Vincenzo was still alive in Ancona in August 1624 when he was 75 years old.

As shown by several of his notes for a period that spans more than thirty years, starting at least in 1590, the year of the note in Fordham’s Abudarham, Friar Vincenzo da Matelica became a censor of Hebrew books. In 1591, the inquisitor of Vercelli ordered Friar Vincenzo (and his colleague Paolo Visconte from Alessandria) to inspect books and manuscripts owned by the brothers “Aron et Lazzar Vitta Sacerdotti,” two Jews living in Vercelli. Ten years later, in 1601, “Vincentius” was returned to Vercelli. Other signatures prove that in in 1601 and 1602 Vincenzo da Matelica was also active in Pavia and was certainly a revisore of Hebrew texts in Ancona in October and November 1622 working together with friar Angelo Maria from Monte Bodio (a town near Ancona), who was a notary of the Holy Office. In Ancona, his work seems to have dissatisfied the Inquisition since texts he had already examined were reinspected six years later, in 1628, by a new censor.

The second censor, who left a now defaced signature on the title page of Fordham’s Abudarham, was Friar Giovanni Battista Porcelli (b. Albenga, 1534 – d. Asti, 31 January 1613). Friar Porcelli was the inquisitor in Alessandria (1572-1589) and Asti (1589-1613), where he was, as he tells in his book Scriniolum Sanctae Inquisitionism, apparently subjected to abuses and ridicule, as well as envy. In 1592, for example, he was ridiculed for trying to “revise” the whole Talmud, but later “his” Inquisition of Asti was recognized and praised in a letter from the secretary of the Congregation of the Index for implementation of Index by Pope Clement VIII.

Friar Porcelli was a zealous censor, eager to ban books even if they were not included in the Clementine Index of prohibited books. He frequently considered every book he deemed “heretical” book as worthy of not just of expurgation but of the stake. Besides giving his “imprimatur” to writings including those he himself authored, Porcelli printed in Asti in 1610 (but really in 1612) the lengthy manual for censors titled Scriniolum Sanctae Inquisitionis Astensis, in which he collected five sixteenth-century indexes of the so-called prohibited books that had been prepared by the Piedmontese Inquisition, including in Asti in 1576.

But there were also other censors who left their marks on Fordham’s Abudarham. After the colophon on f. 86v, there is the concise bilingual note “Visto et coretto p.[er] me Boniforte delli Asinari (“Checked and corrected by myself, Boniforte delli Asinari”) and אני בוניפורטי אסינארי (I, Boniforṭe Asinari”). This second signature in Hebrew suggests that Boniforte degli Asinari was a converted Jew, and not a Catholic man who studied Hebrew, since Catholic censors did not sign their names in Hebrew but converts sometimes did. For example, Domenico Gerosolimitano (formerly Shemu’el Vivas), a much better known expurgator than Boniforte degli Asinari, sometimes signed in Latin as well as דומניקו ירושלמי  (Dominiqo Yerushalmi), that is a Hebrew transliteration of the surname that he assumed when he became Christian.

Since Fordham’s Abudarham bore a signature of Friar Porcelli who was an inquisitor in Asti, it is worth noting that two men named Asinari lived in Asti during the 1570s. Boniforte likely took a surname from his patron, one of the two Asinaris, since it was customary that a neophyte would take the surname of his patron. Consequently, although Boniforte delli Asinari never reported in his censor’s notes the place where he was active, it seems that he was active in Asti. This means that Fordham’s Abudarham would have been in Asinari’s hands in Asti. Nothing more about Boniforte Asinari is known beyond 1582.

This appears to be confirmed by the subsequent note on that page:

“Fr.[ate]r hier.[onymu]s caratus inqu[isito]r Ast[ensis] die 19 Feb.[ruari] 1582” (“Friar Girolamo Carato inquisitor of Asti, day 19 February 1582”). Girolamo Carato (also called Carati, Caratto and Carratto) was inquisitor at Asti from 1566 until his death on 6 December 1588; the abovementioned Giovanni Battista Porcelli, who left his signature on the title page of Abudarham, succeeded him. Carato’s Latin notes and signatures appear on a handful of Hebrew manuscripts, all of them dated between 15 and 19 February 1582; as well as on nine sixteenth-century books now in the BNU of Turin, signed in 1586 and 1587 by “Caratus.” Given the paucity of books inspected by Caratto, one might conclude that censorship of Hebrew books was not his main focus, and instead he was dedicated to the usual job of an official of the Holy Office, namely hunting witches, real or alleged dissenters, and other examples of heterodoxy, and that Boniforte Asinari only briefly overlapped with Caratto.

Abudarham was a popular medieval commentary on the liturgy that was based on much material collected from the Talmud and from other rabbinic sources, it is therefore not surprising that its editions have been censored. Since the Fordham copy of Abudarham had been published before the Talmud had been banned and before the establishment of the Index of Prohibited books and the office devoted to book censorship, this copy would have had to be expurgated should objectionable materials have been subsequently discovered.

Abudarham, title page, the expurgated word is “mi-talmud” (from the Talmud).
fol. 26v

Fordham’s copy shows thin strokes of pen on around 30 folios, with the crossed out words still readable. Some of the expurgations were single words appearing on the title page like mi-Talmud (“from the Talmud”) and minim (“heretics”) while on f. 20r the sentence כעשתה התועבה הזאת בישראל (“that this detestable thing has been done in Israel”) taken from commentary to Deut. 17:4 and on f. 36v a longer line from the commentary by the author of Abudarham on the weekday prayers reciting after the Amidah (“The Standing Prayer”) were crossed out. Other words had corrected terms written above the expurgated words. For instance on f. 34r instead of Birkat ha-minim (“Blessings on the heretics,” part of the Jewish rabbinical liturgy that was considered as a Jewish curse of Christians) had Birkat resh`aot (“A blessing on the wicked”) written over—the word “minim” that was considered objectionable. Elsewhere the presence of those words was signaled on the margins by a vertical dash and sometimes by question marks. Those substitutions that aimed at eliminating every possible anti-Christian allusion in the text (see the abovementioned Birkat ha-minim) were most likely made by one of the Christians censors and not by the book’s Jewish owners. But who may have decided to make those markings? We can exclude Asinari since his Hebrew calligraphy is different, moreover he used a black ink while the questioned words have been penned in red. Without chemical analysis it is difficult to tell who is responsible for the expurgations.

In the next and final installment, we will circle back to the question of ownership to explore to whom the book belonged over the centuries.


A note from Fabrizio Quaglia: I thank Dr. Alexander Gordin, paleographer and staff member of the National Library of Israel, for helping me render some of the Hebrew signatures on Fordham’s copy of Abudarham. Dr. Fabio Uliana, Office of Ancient Funds and Special Collections, Protection, Conservation and Restoration of Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria of Turin, for sending images of BNU books, and Dr. Alberto Palladini, Archivist of Archivio di Stato di Modena for checking for me the list of Leon Poggetti’s books, where this document is located.


Fabrizio Quaglia is Hebraica and Judaica Consultant. His last publication is Il recinto del rinoceronte. I giorni e le opere degli ebrei ad Alessandria prima dell’emancipazione del 1848, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2016. Editor of MEI: Material Evidence in Incunabula Editor: https://www.cerl.org/resources/mei/about/editors.

The Fordham Abudarham: Disclosures and Conjectures (Part 2)

by Fabrizio Quaglia

A note from Magda Teter, the Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies: In November 2018, Fordham University acquired the Sefer Aburdarham published in Venice 1546 at an auction held by the Kestenbaum Auction House of some items of the important Valmadonna Hebraica collection, along with two other items. The book had been digitized by NLI before being sold. This year, as part of our work on an upcoming exhibition on history of censorship, we asked Mr. Fabrizio Quaglia, a Hebraica and Judaica consultant in Italy and an expert on Italian censorship of Jewish books to uncover the secrets old books hold within their pages. Last post explored a note in the upper left corner of the title page. Today’s installment deals with another note, on the printed ornate letters of the book’s title.

Notes within ornate letters of the title of Abudarham (Venice, 1546/7)
Abudarham (Venice 1546/7), Fordham SPEC COLL JUDAICA 1547 1 (high resolution digitization by NLI)

On the letters that make up the ornate title there is a partially damaged inscription in the same seventeenth-century Italian cursive style as the Hebrew note discussed in Part I,  מאת ה’ היתה זאת ליורשי המנוח כמהר”ר יעקב פוייטו יצו (“From G-d to the heirs of the late honored teacher the rabbi Rav Ya‘aqov Poyeṭo, may the Lord protect and redeem them”), יצ”ו =  יצו is shortened for ישמרם צורם וגואלם (may the Lord protect and redeem them). In my opinion, even though the father’s name and a date are missing, Ya‘aqov Poyeṭo or Jacob Poggetto corresponds to the son of the rabbi of Cuneo and money-lender in Asti and Moncalvo Mordechai b. Yiṣḥaq (known in Italian as “Angelino di Isaac”, d. before 1603), also  an owner of Hebrew books, and of Rosa Foa. Jacob Poggetto was rabbi in Asti and in Cuneo. He composed unpublished biblical commentaries (Raze Torah “Secrets of Torah”, included in London, Montefiore Library, ms. 479; posthumously copied), sermons (one on holidays is titled Divre Ya‘aqov, “Words of Jacob”, dated 1579; now in New York, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, ms. 1588) and liturgical poetry dispersed in various manuscripts. Furthermore, Jacob Poggetto was involved in political and rabbinic affairs, which were not always transparent. For example, he had in his hands funds that should have been sent from Cuneo to the Provencal Jews in Safed, but after his death it was discovered that the funds had in the meantime disappeared.

One of Jacob Poggetto’s works, Reshit ḥokmah ha-qaṣar (“The Abridged Primer to Wisdom”), a digest of the ethical Reshit ḥokmah by R. Eliyyah de Vidaś from Safed, which was based largely on the Zohar, was printed in Venice in 1600, twenty years after Poggetto had written it in Asti in 1580. While in Asti, in 1578-1587, Pogetto copied kabbalistic manuscripts mostly composed originally in Safed, including Or Yaqar (“Precious Light”) by R. Moses Cordovero (see the short National Library of Israel, ms. Heb. 8°2964, with his own drawings and kabbalistic diagrams) and at times he also had others copied on his behalf. For example, the anonymous Sefer ha-peli’ah (“The Book of Wonder”), now in British Library Add. 26949. Some of Poggetto’s manuscripts (among them also JTS, ms. 1558) were censored by Boniforte del Asinari and Girolamo Caratto [discussed in upcoming installments] on 19 February 1582.

Poggetto owned some tractates of the Babylonian Talmud published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice in 1521-1522 (the copies are now  in Turin BNU: Hebr.II.10 and Hebr.II.19). Rabbi Jacob Poggetto (Ya‘aqov Poyeṭo) died in 1592. He had a cousin also named Jacob (Giacob), son of Lazarino (Eli’ezer), who was Jacob’s father’s brother; this “second” Jacob operated loan banks in the Asti region in the same years as our Jacob, the book owner. Jacob son of Eliezer lived at least till 1623. Though they shared a name, it is unlikely that this second Jacob owned Fordham’s Abudarham because no book signed by him appears to have survived anywhere. There is no record of the second Jacob the son of Lazarino as a book collector. The opposite is true for Jacob son of Mordechai Poggetto.

Unspecified sons of our Jacob Pogetto, the son of Mordechai (Ya‘aqov b. Mordekay Poyeṭo), inherited in 1601/1602 [361] in Moncalvo an illuminated French rite Maḥzor dated 1304 (now Parma Cod. 3006-3007), according to an owner’s signature on the manuscript; in Asti the Commentary on Pentateuch by ‘Immanuel b. Shelomoh of Rome from circa 1400 (Parma, Cod. 3220), and, perhaps also in 1601-1602, the book of responsa by R. Shelomoh ibn Aderet printed in Venice in 1545 (BNU, Hebr.V.21), which was expurgated in Asti by Boniforte del Asinari and Girolamo Caratto on February 19, 1582.

Jacob Poggetto had at least five sons: Abramo Poggetto lived in Moncalvo (he was a subject of part I), Shelomoh (Salomone), Azariah Shalom, Mosheh, and Yehudah Arieh (in Italian documents Leon Poggetti). Based on the owner’s notes written on other manuscripts we can narrow down the names of the two male heirs of Jacob, one of whom may have owned the Fordham Abudarham in addition to Abramo: Shelomoh (Salomone) and Azariah Shalom.

Salomone seems to have owned two Hebrew manuscripts, which are now in Parma (Parma Cod. 3006-3007 and 3220). In 1624 Salomone purchased another manuscript, now in Vienna (Cod. 3222), and bequeathed another manuscript, now also in Vienna (Austrian National Library, Cod. Hebr. 116), which had originally been copied for his father Jacob Poggetto in 1582 in Cuneo, to the Jewish community of Casale Monferrato, where he died ca. 1630 (in 1607 he was still in Asti). He also sold Jacob’s copy of the poetical miscellany (British Library, Add. 27001) to Meir Luṣaṭo (Meir Luzzatto).

Azariah Shalom was not as active in collecting and selling of books as his brother, Salomone. Azariah Shalom’s signature appears only on a fifteenth-century extremely fragmentary book of Genesis on parchment (Parma, Cod. 2950). Azariah had at least two sons one called Ya‘aqov Hayyim (b. 1609) whose godfather was Abramo Poggetto (Avraham Poyeṭo) who owned the illuminated French rite Maḥzor dated 1304 (Parma, Palatina Library, Cod. 3006-3007) and who left a mark on Abudarham, and Mordechai (b. 1615), whose godfather was his uncle Solomone (Shelomoh Poyeṭo) in Moncalvo.

Another son of Jacob Poggetto, Yehudah Arieh (known in Italian as Leon Poggetti, died at the end of 1647, at 63), was a well-versed scholar, schoolteacher, and the author of rabbinical responsa and unpublished commentaries. Yehudah Arieh (Leon Pogetti) was a rabbi and private tutor in the Ashkenazi synagogue of Modena from the 1620s (if not before). In 1636, Leon Poggetti declared to the Inquisition in Modena that he had inherited from his brother Salomone some of the “prohibited” books that had been sequestered from him. But Abudarham was not one of them since its title is missing from the short list of Leons volumes compiled by the Holy Office.

Another son of Jacob Poggetto, Mosheh was the banker in Moncalvo and Asti since 1585. Mosheh is recorded in two entries in an Asti mohel’s register as father of Israel (b. 1609; Israel’s godfather was his uncle Avraham, Abramo Poggetto, discussed in Part I) and Yehoshua‘ (b. 1611; whose godfather was R. Eliaqim, teacher in the Jewish community of Moncalvo, mentioned in Part I). Given the records, it is thus clear that Mosheh was not among those who inherited Abudarham.

Jacob Poggetto belonged to a much talked about family: in the 1550s his uncle Lazarino was accused in Alessandria of having poisoned to death his wife Allegra Levi and was imprisoned along with his parents Isaac and Stella, Jacob Poggetto’s grandparents. Lazarino and his father Isaac had a very bad reputation even among the Jews—they had already been suspected of an attempted murder in Asti of Lazarino Levi, Lazarino Poggetto’s brother-in-law. But in this case, the Poggettos were acquitted.

Coming back to our book, the Sefer Abudarham. Inside the manuscript on about 15 leaves are marginal notations in five different hands (mostly single words), some in faded bigger characters. They seem to come from slightly later periods and not from declared signatories, except for five notes attributable to Abramo Poggetto (Avraham Poyeṭo). I want to venture a risky suggestion is that Abramo Poggetto purchased of the book from a man Meir Luzzatto, who must have been in some way connected to the Poggettos, on  Salomone’s side. Luzzatto must have acquired it earlier from one of Jacob Pogetto’s heirs. But the question remains, why did Abramo, one of Ya‘aqov’s sons, have to buy it back? The answer could no doubt be found in some notarial records preserved in the archives.

In the next installment, we will explore the marks Italian censors left on the book. Stay tuned.


A note from Fabrizio Quaglia: I thank Dr. Alexander Gordin, paleographer and staff member of the National Library of Israel, for helping me render some of the Hebrew signatures on Fordham’s copy of Abudarham. Dr. Fabio Uliana, Office of Ancient Funds and Special Collections, Protection, Conservation and Restoration of Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria of Turin, for sending images of BNU books, and Dr. Alberto Palladini, Archivist of Archivio di Stato di Modena for checking for me the list of Leon Poggetti’s books, where this document is located.


Fabrizio Quaglia is Hebraica and Judaica Consultant. His last publication is Il recinto del rinoceronte. I giorni e le opere degli ebrei ad Alessandria prima dell’emancipazione del 1848, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2016. Editor of MEI: Material Evidence in Incunabula Editor: https://www.cerl.org/resources/mei/about/editors.