Auction 86 - Part I - Rare & Important Items

Book of Iyov with the Commentary of the Ralbag – Incunabulum – Naples, 1487 – First Printing of the Book of Iyov

Opening: $15,000
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
Sold for: $23,750
Including buyer's premium
Book of Iyov, with the commentary of the Ralbag. [Naples: Joseph son of Jacob Ashkenazi Gunzenhauser, 1487].
This is presumably the first printing of the Book of Iyov, or at least the first dated printing (there are fragments of a Bible edition, which some estimate was printed in Spain or Portugal before the expulsion, but those fragments have not been dated. See: A. K. Offenberg, Hebrew Incunabula in Public Collections, Nieuwkoop 1990, no. 33). The present Book of Iyov was printed as part of a Ketuvim edition printed that year in Naples. The commentary of the Ralbag on Iyov was printed earlier, in Ferrara 1477, without the text of Iyov.
The text of Iyov is printed in vocalized, square type (soft consonants marked). The commentary is printed in semi-cursive script (Rashi script).
Initial word on leaf [2] within a decorative woodcut frame (initial word printed in enlarged, Ashkenazic script; the letter Yud ends in a leaf-shaped ornament).
Handwritten inscriptions beside the text in several places; handwritten catchwords.
The printer, Joseph son of Jacob Ashkenazi Gunzenhauser (from Gunzenhausen, Bavaria), was a pioneer in Hebrew printing, active in Italy. Joseph Ashkenazi worked alongside the Soncino family, who set up presses in various Italian cities. He established his printing press in Naples, ca. 1487, and passed away in 1490. That year, the Soncino press moved to Naples (run by Yehoshua Shlomo Soncino). Joseph Ashkenazi's son, Azriel, continued operating the printing press for another two years, until 1492 (the year of the Spanish expulsion) – when both Ashkenazi's and Soncino's printing presses were closed. Joseph Ashkenazi's press produced all of 15 Hebrew titles.
[48] leaves. Six gatherings, 1-6, of 8 leaves each. 24.5 cm. Fair condition. Stains, including large dampstains (several leaves with dark stains, minor singeing and some mold). Worming, affecting text (and affecting decorative initial word panel), repaired in part with paper. Open tears, repaired with paper. New binding, with worming.
Regarding this edition and the year of printing, see: Y. Yudlov, A Document Regarding the Sale of Incunabulum in Naples in the Fifteenth Century, Asufot, X, 1997, p. 79.
Early Printed Books – 15th-16th Centuries