This week I acquired a fine edition of the Talmud published in Vienna between 1860 and 1872. Printed on excellent paper and with wide margins, this attractive edition was the result of much effort on the part of Vienna’s rabbi at the time, R. Eliezer Halevi Horowitz.
This edition includes, for the first time, the hagahot of the Chatam Sofer, and the text of the Talmud itself was perfected, according to R. Horowitz, in consultation with an 800-year-old Talmud manuscript.
In the Yevamot volume of this edition appears an extraordinary haskamah by the Divrei Chayim, R. Haim Halberstam of Sanz. He writes, among other things, that the printers were under the watchful eyes of Vienna’s rabbi and were careful not to desecrate Shabbat or Yom Tov during the printing process.
The Divrei Chayim is most likely alluding to reports concerning the former Vienna Talmud printed by Anton Schmidt and edited by Yehuda Ben Ze’ev, who was a maskil. R. David Deutsch (1755-1831) is said to have suspected that Shabbat was being desecrated while this Talmud was published, so one Shabbat he and several of his talmidim sneaked into the printing press and found the editor, bareheaded, editing and proofreading the text on Shabbat.
Legend has it that Yehuda Ben Ze’ev, upon being discovered, ran away in shame and locked himself in a bathroom. When he failed to exit, the door was opened and he was found dead; he had passed away at the young age of 47.