Photo Credit: Jewish Press

A set of an early and attractive printing of the Mishnah came with a number of rare books I acquired this week. It was printed in Italy between 1559 and 1562 just a few short years after the infamous burning of the Talmud in Rome in 1553, which was followed by the banning of the Talmud and related works throughout many of the Italian states.

After the Talmud was burned, all remaining Hebrew books had to be submitted to the Catholic Inquisition for censorship. The set I acquired contains the signatures of the censors at the end of the volumes as well as erasures of offending texts – both real and presumed.

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In Tractate Avodah Zarah, in the commentary of R. Obadia of Bartenuro, we find several mentions of gentile holidays and references to gentile religions crudely crossed out – although the censors’ ink has faded away with time, allowing us a glimpse of the original text.

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