Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Masechet Purim

I know that Purim is still a long way away, but I just discovered this fact (in the very interesting book Printing the Talmud: From Bomberg To Schottenstein

Nowadays, a spoof of a current event has to be made within a few hours, or at most a few days, otherwise it loses its bite. However, it wasn't always so.

The first complete set of Talmud Bavli was printed by Daniel Bomberg in Venice and completed in 1543 (it took 23 years to put out the entire set)

It was bound in pigskin (which was the best quality leather for binding) and the first printing was of 1500 copies. It was reprinted several times and was a 'best-seller'.

But only 9 years later the first 'spoof tractate' was printed in 1552, also in Venice. It was entitled "Masechet Purim" and was printed together with Sefer Havakbuk Ha-Navi (a parody of Habakuk Ha-Navi - which translates as "The Book of the Bottle Prophet")

You can download a copy from the amazing HebrewBooks.org - save it for Purim and learn it with your friends and family. Or condemn it for being leitzanus.

It just amazes me that someone invested the time and money to create and print a spoof talmudic tractate - especially when printing was so new and still quite rare.

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