A first edition of the Second Rabbinic Bible (or Mikra’ot Gedolot in Hebrew), produced and edited by the Jewish scholar Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonyah and published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice.
What does it include?
This edition consists of the masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), masoretic notes, Onkelos’s Aramaic translation and various rabbinic commentaries including Rashi’s (Rabbi Solomon ben Itshak of Troyes) and Abraham ibn Ezra’s. For this edition, the first to include the Masorah (corpus of rules on the pronunciation, reading and spelling of the scriptural text that ensured the correct transmission of the Hebrew Bible), Jacob ben Hayyim used the best masoretic manuscripts available to him at the time.
Why is it important?
The Second Rabbinic Bible was deemed an extraordinary achievement of typesetting and layout for its day. It is considered as one of the best produced and textually accurate editions of the Hebrew Bible, and served as the standard text for nearly all subsequent editions, up to the present day, including the King James Bible.
Daniel Bomberg (1483–1549), who hailed from Antwerp, was the publisher of this remarkable biblical edition and is acknowledged as the foremost Christian printer of Hebrew books. In the 16th century, the publishing of religious printed books required permission from the Pope. In 1516 Bomberg was granted papal privilege to publish Hebrew books in Venice and he was responsible for the creation of the Hebrew type used to print this and other editions. He employed many rabbis, scholars and converts in his printing press, which remained active until 1549. More than 200 Hebrew books were issued by him. These include the outstanding first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud (printed 1520–1523) which set the benchmark for all future editions. The British Library holds a full set of the Bomberg Talmud, seven volumes of which have been fully digitised.