Finding the signature of the Chida (or Chid”a, as it is an acronym), R. Haim Yosef David Azulai (1724 – 1806), is one of the pleasures in life that I am to repeat to infinity. Recently, I sold a book that had his signature on the title page, a beautiful calligraphically-written full name in his characteristic shape of a boat. The Chida’s great-grandfather R. Avraham Azulai was born in Fes, Morocco and traveled in 1559 to the holy land, where he settled in Hebron. En route, his ship nearly capsized and only a miracle saved him from certain death. To commemorate this miracle, R. Avraham Azulai would sign his name in the form a boat, so the memory of the miracle remains with him. It is theorized that the Chida as well as other members of the family continued this practice, and indeed the signatures of many of the family bear the same shape.
Similar signatures though were common in the Sephardic world in this period, similar to Arabic signatures of the era, and we find many other rabbinical signatures of this era with ship-like themes. One such example is that of a close colleagues of the Chida, Rabbi Avraham Yonah, the rabbi of Venice (example in appended photo).
The Chida published 50 of his books in his lifetime, and had a significant library and keen interest in rare books and manuscripts. His gift inscriptions on his books can thus be found on some of his publications, and some of his personal copies of books from his collection survived in various libraries and personal collections, occasionally surfacing on to the market.