The burning of the Talmud, one of the formative and most unfortunate events of Jewish culture, was an unforgettable event that symbolized a turning point in the attitude of the church toward Jewish books and led to the establishment of the censor.
It took centuries for religious Jewry and Jewish literature to recover, and a treasure of Jewish manuscripts was forever lost as a result of the event.
And it all began with one edition of Mishneh Torah LehHaRambam, an edition of which only a few complete copies had survived, one of them now being auctioned by the Tiferet Auction House in an auction that will take place next week, on June 4.
And for the historical details: the unfortunate event of the burning of books in Italy began in Venice in 1550 with a dispute between two publishing houses.
Two printers that printed Hebrew books existed then in Venice. Both were owned by Christians: one by Marco Justinian and the other by Baragadin.
There was a fierce rivalry between the two. Following a dispute pertaining to the printing of the Rambam's book, both printers appealed to Pope Julius III, claiming that the other printery was printing words defaming Christianity, especially the Talmud printed by Justinian.
Some converts joined the complaints, and subsequently, a special committee established by the Pope concluded that the Talmud indeed contained incitement against Christianity. The Pope then ordered to destroy and burn all copies of the Talmud, Bavli, and Yerushalmi. Alongside these copies, many additional Jewish books were burned. The burning of books, which began in Venice, spread all over Italy and its neighboring countries. Ever since this sorrowful event became a symbol of the war between Jews and Christians and a terrible fault line of Jewish literature.
The Tiferet Auction House is thrilled to introduce a rare, unique, complete copy of the Rambam that was printed by Justinian, Baragadin's rival, which reveals new information.
It turns out that Justinian stole from his rival the important glosses by the Gaon Rabbi Meir - the Maharam Padova glosses that he wrote on the Rambam and were supposed to be published by the rival printery. Not only did he steal the glosses, he also added words of contempt against the Maharam Padova.
His words were so sharp that he did not bind them in all copies of the Mishneh Torah that he printed and only to a few did he add the glosses and his contemptuous foreword.
The Meyuchasim Auction - introducing treasures of Jewish history and literature, books over 400 years old, and other rare copies - presents a rare copy of the Mishneh Torah printed by Justinian, a copy containing the glosses.
The fact that the five rare copies of the National Library and the Bibliography of the Hebrew Book do not contain the rare leaves with the indices, Simanei Sefer HaMitzvot and some of the glosses by the Maharam Padova, which do not appear, as stated, in most copies of this edition, indicates how rare this copy is.
Mishneh Torah, the Venice 1550 edition, printed by the Christian printer Justinian is a most important historical book, representing the spirit and way of Rabbeinu Moshe - the Rambam and the victory of spirit over matter as his writings and Torah are studied to this day.
The Meyuchasim Auction will be held next week, and to get a sense of the book's value, we shall just note that its opening price is $25000. So if you are one of those who understand the significance and value of historical Jewish books, you should start making room in your library.