¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Prior to the thirteenth century, Jewish concentration in cities allowed their communities access to sources of Jewish learning, such as the Talmud, in the form of rare, hand-copied scripts. However, for the scattered, rural Jewish communities in the sixteenth century, costly manuscripts did not present a feasible solution. But the recent introduction of movable print around 1450 had raised great interest among literate Jews, since it could potentially open the treasures of the rabbinic literature to any literate Jew.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 In 1559 Eliezer ben Naftali Herz Treves, together with his brother Josef ben Naftali, opened a printing press in Tiengen.24 Eliezer (1498–1566) had been the chief rabbi of the Frankfurt Jewish community. He was considered an authority on divorce and rabbinic appointments but also explored Kabbalah. Eliezer saw the structural importance of books printed in Yiddish and Hebrew, but since printing was forbidden to Jews in Frankfurt, he applied to the authorities in Zurich to have Hebrew books published there. When this request was denied, he moved back across the Rhine to the little town of Tiengen where, with the permission of the count of Sulz, he managed to publish six books. In October of that same year, the local representative of the Catholic bishop of Constance reported to his superior and asked for instructions.25 Catholic authorities were concerned about the potentially heretic nature of books printed in Hebrew. Initially, the bishop chose to ignore the warning. But in 1560, at the insistence of the neighbouring Swiss town of Baden, the count of Sulz had to put an end to Hebrew printing in Tiengen.
24Wiener, “Zur Errichtung der hebr. Druckerei,”; Sidorko, “Eliezer ben Naphtali Herz Treves,” 457–472. The family name Treves, derived from the name of the city Trier (French Treves, eventually morphed into Dreyfuss or Dreifuss.
25Burnett, “The Regulation of Hebrew Printing in Germany, 1555–1630,” 329–48.