Auctioneers of Rare Books, Collectibles and Fine Art

Auction 73: June 22nd, 2017


Lot: 173 JACOB BEN ASHER Arba’ah Turim [The Four Orders of the Jewish Code of Law] Second incunable edition. Four parts bound here in two volumes. * Part I: (86 of 94), ff.1-8, provided in facsimile. * Part II: ff. (80). * Part III: ff. (50). * Part IV: ff. (126). All complete but for initial eight leaves of Part I. Modern foliation in pencil. First leaf of part I mounted and with remnants of wax seal; a few minor holes affecting a few letters only, paper tape repair on verso. Several leaves strengthened at gutter. Some marginal dampstaining in places, otherwise only minor soiling. Joints starting between parts III-IV. Signed by censor (Camillo Jagel, 1619) on f. 126r of part IV. Early twentieth century half vellum over green morocco. Worn.
     Overall, an exceptionally crisp copy.
[Vinograd, Soncino 38; Offenberg 62; Offenberg BMC XIII, p. 48; Goff Heb-48].

Solomon ben Moses Soncino, [Soncino]: ca. 1490. Est: $60,000 - $80,000

-In 1303, Jacob ben Asher, along with his father (and teacher) Asher ben Jehiel (the Rosh), departed from Germany and resettled in Toledo, Spain. The Arba’ah Turim, his magnum opus, Jacob developed a convenient and concise approach to Jewish law; its simple style and wealth of content made it a basic work, where it opened a new era in the realm of halachic codification. In the Arba’ah Turim (also called the Tur) served as an important bridge between the two medieval centers of European Jewry and helped to inform the Sephardi Jews of the Iberian Peninsula of the opinions of the Aschkenazi rabbis of France and Germany.
     The complete work is divided into four sections called Turim (rows). Part I, Orach Chaim, contains 697 chapters and deals with blessings, prayers, the Sabbath, festivals, and fasts. Part II, Yoreh De’ah, contains 403 chapters on Issur ve-Hetter (ritual law), commencing with the laws of ritual slaughter and kashruth and ending with chapters on usury, idolatry, and mourning. Part III, Even Ha’Ezer, contains 178 chapters on laws affecting women, particularly marriage and divorce. Part IV, Choshen Mishpat, contains 427 chapters on civil law and personal relations.
     The superiority of the work soon led to its dissemination throughout the Diaspora. Its authority was recognized and accepted by all Jewish scholars throughout the generations, many of whom (including the likes of Joseph Karo, Moses Isserles, Isaac Aboab, Jacob ibn Habib, Joel Sirkes, and Hayim Benveniste) used it as the point of departure for their own writings. In fact, when Karo wrote his major work, the Beith Yosef, he based it on the Arba’ah Turim. This in turn was the basis for the Shulchan Aruch which ultimately took its place as the unchallenged halachic code par excellence.
     This edition of the Arbah Turim is the only work in which Solomon Soncino, is recorded as printer. David Amram suggests, “It seems that although Joshua Solomon’s name appears in most of the books of the first five years of the press, the others were entitled to an equal share of the credit of their production and it may be that the younger men, after serving their apprenticeship, were rewarded by permission to attach their names to an occasional publication. Thus, while Gershom apears as the printer of the Book of Moses of Coucy (issued in 1488), his brother Solomon, in 1490, appears as the printer of a new edition of that other great law book, the Turim of Jacob ben Asher.” See Amram, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy, p.78.

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