We have here an outstanding example of the Talmud, Bomberg edition, printed in Venice in 1520. This is the Tractate Sotah dealing with an unfaithful woman, an unfaithful wife. This was printed on paper with a leather binding and handwritten in the margins with commentary. This is lent to the museum by the Lisa and Alan Stern Family Collection.

The Talmud is the name given to the books of commentary which interpret the Bible. It is also known as the oral law. The term Talmud comes from the Hebrew to study or learn, and the Talmud, or oral law, is comprised of the six orders of the Mishnaha and 63 tractates of the Gemara. The commentaries of the rabbis, called Amoraim, were completed and compiled into what we today know as the Talmud by the year 500 of the common era.

The publisher of this Talmud was a famous man called Daniel Bomberg who was born in Antwerp and worked in Venice. He was one of the earliest and most prominent of the Christian printers of Hebrew books.  In the year 1520, he was granted permission by Pope Leo X, to publish the first complete edition of the Talmud. T And in doing so, many believe, actually saved this corpus of learning for the Jewish people and the world. The pope granted him a monopoly to do so. The pagination he developed remains the standard to this day of all published Talmuds. In addition to publishing the Talmud and other Hebrew books, such as copies of the Five Books of Moses, he was able to get a dispensation for workers so they did not have to wear the Jewish badge of the time, the Judenstern or pointed Jew’s hat.

This was a monumental work achieved by Bomberg. His printed Gemaras are much sought after by collectors all over the world. And the museum is extremely fortunate to have a rare and good copy of this edition.