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Bass (or Bassista; Heb. מְשׁוֹרֵר), Shabbetai ben Joseph

BASS (or Bassista; Heb. מְשׁוֹרֵר), SHABBETAI BEN JOSEPH

BASS (or Bassista; Heb. מְשׁוֹרֵר), SHABBETAI BEN JOSEPH (1641–1718), the first Jewish bibliographer. Bass's parents were killed in a pogrom in Kalisz (Poland) by the Cossacks in 1655, but he and his elder brother were saved and fled to Prague. Possessing a pleasant voice, Bass was engaged as an assistant singer (hence his nickname Bass) to the cantor Loeb at the Altneu synagogue (Altneuschul) in Prague. In Prague he acquired a thorough knowledge of the Talmud, and also a general education which included Latin. His love of books and a critical spirit drew him to publication and printing. In 1669 in Prague he printed a revised edition of the Yiddish commentary on the Pentateuch and the Five Scrolls by Moses Saertels, Be'er Moshe, with an appendix on "grammatical rules." As there was no complete list in Hebrew of Jewish literature, he undertook to compile one. Between 1674 and 1679 Bass visited libraries in Poland, Germany, and Holland. In Amsterdam he studied the art of printing and proofreading, and published Massekhet Derekh Ereẓ, a guide book for travelers (1680); the Pentateuch with a super-commentary on Rashi, Siftei Ḥakhamim (1680), a popular commentary often reprinted; and Siftei Yeshenim (1680), a list in Hebrew of some 2,200 Hebraica and Judaica. This was the first Jewish bibliography in Hebrew giving, apart from the names of the books, the name of the author, content, format, place and year of printing, and sometimes also where it could be found. He also listed manuscripts. In some copies a prayer book was appended to the list. In 1688 Bass obtained a permit to set up a Hebrew printing press at Auras, and this was shortly afterward transferred to *Dyhernfurth. The first book printed by Bass was Samuel b. Uri Shraga's commentary Beit Shemu'el (1689), on Shulḥan Arukh Even ha-Ezer. He also successfully engaged in bookselling. When the Jesuits accused Bass of spreading hatred against the Christians and the government, he at first succeeded in refuting the accusations; but in 1712 the Jesuits repeated the accusations and he was arrested. In the trial he succeeded in proving the ignorance of his accusers and was released. His sons and grandsons continued to print books at Dyhernfurth up to the second half of the 18th century.


Bloch, in: Studies in Jewish Bibliography… (1929), index; Shunami, Bibl, index.

[Abraham Meir Habermann]

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