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A Few Comments Regarding The First Woodcut Border Accompanying The Prague 1526 Haggadah

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  A Few Comments Regarding The First WoodcutBorder Accompanying The Prague 1526 Haggadah A Few Comments Regarding The First Woodcut Border Accompanying The Prague 1526 Haggadah The Prague 1526 edition of the Haggadah is one of the most important illustrated haggadot ever published. It is perhaps theearliest printed illustrated haggadah for a Jewish audience and served as a model for many subsequent illustrated haggadot.[1] The earliest printed haggadah with illustration was published in 1512 in Latin and for a non-Jewish audience. Thathaggadah contains six woodcuts, and was intended as a response to the infamous anti-Semite Pfefferkorn’s screeds againstJudaism.[2]The woodcut accompanying the first page shows three Jews around the seder who have four cups in front of them. Although the Talmud explicitly states that one is not required to have four distinct cups of wine, presumably theimage is a crude method of indicating the four-fold nature of the wine during the seder rather than prescribing custom.The Prague 1526 edition was published by Gershom and his brother Gronom Katz on Sunday, 26th of Tevet 5287 orDecember 30, 1526.[3] This detailed publication information does not appear on the title page, rather it appears at the end of the book and is referred to as a colophon. The colophon is a manuscript convention that was incorporated into earlierprinted books. The Prague 1526 edition does not have a title page at all. At that time, the usage of the title page was only inits early stages.[4]1. The Earliest Hebrew Title PagesAs with non-Hebrew titles, the title page developed over time, both in terms of content as well as usage.[5] The firstHebrew title page is that of the Sefer Rokeah published in Fano in 1505.[6] But that title page is really one of the more basicforms of the title page, known as a “label title page” providing only the title and author and no other ornamentation orinformation.[7] In that same year, an edition of Abarbanel’s  Zevah Pesach was published in Constantinople. This editionwas the first to contain a border with the title and author, but no place or date of publication.[8] The first Hebrew bookcontaining all the elements of a traditional title page, border, title, author, place and date is likely the 1511 Pesaro edition of the Talmud published by Soncino.[9]Traditionally, the Hebrew title page is referred to as a “ sha’ar ” or gate. The theory behind this description is that many titlepage borders are comprised of “gates,” the most common are the pillars that adorn many Hebrew books and are assumed tobe those at Saint Peter’s Basillica in Rome. Their inclusion in Hebrew books is perhaps linked to the (discredited) notionthat the Catholic Church maintains certain portions of the Jewish Temple, and these pillars were actually in the Temple. Thefirst Hebrew book to use an architectural border is Daniel Bomberg’s edition of the Jerusalem Talmud published in 1522.[10]1. Illustrations in Hebrew BooksReturning to the Prague 1526 haggadah, as mentioned previously, this edition was copiously illustrated, including the firstpage of the book. This is not the first example of Hebrew printed illustrations. The earliest illustration to appear in a Hebrewbook is that of a lulav  and a handful of other explanatory images accompanying the Rome edition of the Sefer Mitzvot   Gedolot dated to before 1480.[11] The first fully illustrated Hebrew book was published in the incunabula period as well, it is Isaac ben Solomon Ibn Sahula’s  Meshal ha-Qadmoni , printed in Italy, circa 1491, by Gershom Soncino.[12]The border surrounding the first page of the Prague 1526 incorporates both Jewish as well as non-Jewish elements. First, itis obvious that a Jew had a hand in the border as, in the inset, it displays someone performing bedikat hametz (searching forthe bread) where he is using the traditional implements of a candle and chicken feather. The outside border is less Jewish,and as many have noted, appears to be a copy of Italian/German renaissance borders. The two most likely candidates formodels for Prague are the border first used in the 1518 edition of Sacri Doctoris  by Raymond Lulli (available here   ) or aborder first used in 1519 for Paolo Ricci’s,  Lepida et litere  in Augsburg and reused in an Augsburg 1522 edition of Erasmus,  Ad reverendum  (available here). Although we cannot pinpoint exactly which of these, if any, served as a model, what is  clear is that among the images included in this border are bare-breasted women.The use of bare breasted women to illustrate the haggadah is not limited to Prague. Both Charles Wengrov and ElliotHorowitz have pointed to earlier manuscript antecedents for Prague’s usage of such illustrations.[13] Aside from the printedexample of the Prague 1526 Haggadah, this convention continued in manuscripts as well illuminated after 1526. There areat least four such 16th century examples.[14] Additionally, and contrary to Horwitz’s contention that Spanish Jews were lessaccepting of such displays,[15] the Sarajevo Haggadah, which srcinated in Spain around 1350, includes two panels of Adam and Eve both depicting a bare-breasted Eve. Likewise, the Golden Haggadah, 1320 Spanish manuscript includes the same form of illustration of the Adam and Evescene. Additionally, the Golden Haggadah includes images of nude bathers when it depicts Miriam standing from afar to  see what will become of baby Moses.[16]III. Censorship in Modern Reprints of Prague 1526 These historical antecedents notwithstanding, recent reprints of Prague 1526 have not been as accepting. This initialborder has been altered to airbrush and removes the bare breasts. In 1989, a facsimile edition of Prague 1526 was publishedwith the commentary of the Prague rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda Loew (Maharal). This border has been “touched up.”  Similarly, in 1998, a colorized facsimile edition of Prague 1526 was published. Although the publishers took great pains toprovide color where before there was black and white, they also altered this border.
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