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2002 articles 1989 articles

The beginnings of Hebrew printing in Egypt

Diana Rowland-Smith


COMPARATIVELY little scholarly interest has been taken in Hebrew printing in the Islamic World, even though some of the Jews who fled there following their expulsion from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497 brought with them their printing presses and equipment. These refugees and other exiles who settled among them set up their workshops in Constantinople (1493), Salonika (1513), Fez (1516), Cairo (1557), Safed (circa 1577) and Damascus (1605). The reasons for the few studies on printing in the East are that these exiles were generally unable to maintain their printing activities for any length of time and usually few remains of the works that they printed have survived. In Fez, Safed, Cairo and Damascus the printing of Hebrew quickly disappeared due to the unfavourable economic conditions and probably also the influence of the adverse reaction of the Islamic World to the use of printing for religious literature. Only Constantinople, Salonika and, from 1657, Izmir succeeded in surviving as centres of Hebrew printing probably because of their relatively close ties with Western centres of influence and their greater prosperity when compared with other cities of the Ottoman Empire.

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