Bomberg, Daniel°

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BOMBERG, DANIEL ° (d. between 1549 and 1553), one of the first and the most prominent Christian printers of Hebrew books. Bomberg left his native Antwerp as a young man and settled in Venice. Rich and well educated, and even having studied Hebrew, he developed a deep interest in books. He probably learned the art of printing from his father Cornelius. In all, nearly 200 Hebrew books were published (many for the first time) at Bomberg's printing house in Venice, which he set up on the advice of the apostate Felix Pratensis. He published editions of the Pentateuch and the Hebrew Bible, both with and without commentaries, and was the first to publish the rabbinic Bible Mikra'ot Gedolot, 4 vols., 1517–18, with Pratensis as editor, i.e., the text of the Hebrew Bible with Targum and the standard commentaries. In order to produce this work, he had to cast great quantities of type and engage experts as editors and proofreaders. As a result of the success of his early work, Bomberg expanded his operations. He published the first complete editions of the two Talmuds (1520–23) with the approval of Pope Leo x (only individual tractates of the Babylonian Talmud having hitherto been published), as well as the Tosefta (appended to the 2nd ed. of Alfasi, 1522). The pagination of Bomberg's editions of the Talmud (with commentaries) has become standard ever since. Similarly, his second edition of the rabbinic Bible (1524–25) edited by *Jacob b. Ḥayyim ibn Adonijah, has served as a model for all subsequent editions of the Bible. He is said to have invested more than 4,000,000 ducats in his printing plant. Bomberg spent several years trying to obtain a permit from the Council of Venice to establish a Hebrew publishing house. He also had to secure special dispensation for his Jewish typesetters and proofreaders from wearing the distinctive Jewish (yellow) hat. In 1515 the Venetian printer P. Liechtenstein printed, at Bomberg's expense, a Latin translation by Felix Pratensis of the Psalms. Apparently, the first Hebrew book to come off his press was the Pentateuch (Venice, Dec. 1516), though there is some evidence that his first work was printed in 1511 (Aresheth 3, 93ff.). In 1516 he obtained a privilege to print Hebrew books for the Jews and went on printing rabbinic books, midrashic-liturgical texts, etc. Among Bomberg's printers, editors, and proofreaders whose names are known were: Israel (Cornelius) *Adelkind and his brother and Jacob b. Ḥayyim ibn Adonijah (all of whom were later baptized); David Pizzighettone, Abraham de *Balmes, *Kalonymus b. David, and Elijah *Levita (Baḥur). It seems that Bomberg's fortunes declined as a result of competition from other publishers. In 1539 he returned to Antwerp, though his publishing house continued to operate until 1548. His distinctive type became popular, and his successors not only lauded his typography but went so far as to print on the title pages of their publications "with Bomberg type," or some similar reference. The name Bomberg which appears in the Plantin Bible published in Antwerp in 1566 almost certainly refers to his son, and from him Plantin obtained a manuscript of the Syriac New Testament on which he based the Polyglot Bible known as Regia (8 vols., 1569–73).


A. Berliner, in: jjlg, 3 (1905), 293–305 (= Ketavim Nivḥarim, 2 (1949), 163–75, 287–8; A. Freimann, in: zhb, 10 (1906), 32–36, 79–88; D.W. Amram, Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy (1909), 146–224; I. Mehlman, in: Aresheth, 3 (1961), 93–98; J. Bloch, Venetian Printers of Hebrew Books (1932), 5–16; C. Roth, Venice (1930), 246–54; G.E. Weil, Élie Lévita (1963), index; C. Roth, in: rej, 89 (1930), 204; British Museum, Department of Printed Books, Short-title Catalogue of Books Printed in ltaly… from 1465 to 1600 (1958), 788–9; H.M. Adams, Catalogue of Books Printed on the Continent of Europe, 1501–1600, in Cambridge Libraries, 2 (1967), 397–8.

[Abraham Meir Habermann]