Printers' Marks

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PRINTERS' MARKS , the devices or badges used by early printers to distinguish their productions. The first known printers' mark in Hebrew printing is the lion rampant within a red shield, which was used by Eliezer Alantansi at Híjar in and after 1485. The *Soncino family of printers, both in Italy and in other countries, used a tower, probably the badge of the city of Soncino in Lombardy; this was subsequently adopted by the Soncino Gesellschaft in Germany and by the 20th-century Soncino Press in London. Later, various printers of the Kohen family, especially the Proops of Amsterdam, used a printers' mark of the hands spread in priestly benediction. The Giustiniani Press in Venice employed a conventional representation of the Temple in Jerusalem – subsequently much copied – and the Bragadini used three crowns symbolizing the diadem of royalty, priesthood, and Torah (cf. Avot 4:13). At a later time Italian printers often employed their family badges as printers' marks. Thus, the productions of the Foa family, from the middle of the 16th century down to the 18th, were distinguished by a badge showing two lions rampant against a palm tree supporting the shield of David, with various permutations. Abraham Usque of Ferrara adopted the Portuguese royal badge of a sphere, losing the significance of the punning motto spera in dominum by translating it back into the Hebrew original kavveh el Adonai (Ps. 27:14). The Basevi brothers of Verona used their family badge, subsequently incorporated into their coat of arms, of a white lion back to back with a black eagle, both crowned. The badge of Manasseh Ben Israel was memorable, with the words emet me-ereẓ tiẓmaḥ ("Truth springeth out of the earth," Ps. 85:12) shown as a rebus, or in his non-Hebrew productions, a pilgrim with the motto Apercebido como hu romeiro. The Benveniste family of Amsterdam used a lion rampant against a tower, surmounted by a star, which presumably was their coat of arms. The symbols of fertility, fish, were common throughout the 17th and 18th centuries in various countries. Monograms in Latin characters were sometimes used. The Eastern European printers' marks were for the most part unoriginal and often poorly printed and designed. Among the Christian printers of Hebrew books, Froben used intertwined serpents, and *Fagius a leafy tree. From the 18th century, the use of printers' marks became less common and their designs less distinctive.


A. Yaari, Hebrew Printers' Marks from the Beginnings of Hebrew Printing to the End of the 19thCentury (Heb. and Eng., 1943), with 208 reproductions.

[Cecil Roth]