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The eagle motif in sixteenth--and seventeenth-century Hebrew books.

"You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles wings, and brought you to myself" [Exodus 19:4].

"Like the eagle who carries its fledglings upon its wings--for all other birds put their young between their feet because they are afraid of another bird that can fly above them, but the eagle is afraid only of man, lest [man] shoot an arrow into him, because no bird flies above him. Therefore [the eagle] puts [the fledgling] upon his wings. He says, "Better that the arrow should enter me than my son [Rashi on Exodus 19:4] (1)

"As an eagle stirs up its nest, flutters over its young, spreads out its wings, takes them, bears them on its pinions" [Deuteronomy 32:ii].

"And everyone had four faces; the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle" [Ezekiel 10:14].

R. Judah ben Tema said: "Be strong as the leopard and swift as the eagle, fleet as the deer and valiant as a lion to do the will of thy Father in heaven" [Avot 5:23; Pesahim 112a]. (2)

The eagle is a majestic bird. As such, it is celebrated and often venerated in various cultures, from ancient Egypt to the modern world and from the Moche of ancient Peru to Hinduism in India. Its service as a political symbol spans diverse cultures, from classical Greece and Rome to the United States today. It is represented in Christian, Moslem, and Jewish iconography.

The eagle has been employed as a political or military standard in ancient and modern times. Among the former are that the eagle was the standard of Cyrus the Great (ca. 600-576 BCE--530 bce), termed the Derafsh-e Shahbaz-e-Talayi (Golden Falcon) and described by Xenophon in the Cyropaedia (vii:i) as "a golden eagle, with outspread wings, borne aloft on a long spear-shaft." The eagle (aquila) was the standard of a Roman legion, carried by an eagle-bearer (aquilifer) for each legion. Today, millenia after our first examples, the American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is the official bird emblem of the United States of America, adopted as such in 1782, and appears on the United States seal. (3) The recurring usage and popularity of the eagle was commented upon by Dante, who described the eagle as the bird of God with the spirits of just princes forming their hosts into the figure of an eagle: "Lo! How straight up to Heaven he holds them reared / Winnowing the air with those eternal plumes." (4)

The eagle is a not infrequent symbol in Jewish iconography. (5) Based on biblical and talmudic references, its usage is widespread. Various forms of eagle, nesher [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], with prefixes and suffixes, appear twenty-six times in the Bible, there are numerous references to it in the Talmud and midrashim, and no less a sage than Maimonides (R. Moses ben Maimon, Rambam, 1135-1204) is referred to as ha-Nesher ha-Gadol (the Great Eagle) for his Mishneh Torah, considered an unparalled tour de force. (6) It appears in Jewish iconography from the earliest times, described, for example, by Steven H. Werlin in his thesis on the use of the eagle in three-dimensional iconography "in the architectural relief sculpture of Palestinian synagogues as well as on Jewish sarcophagi .... dated between the third and sixth century C.E." (7)

The eagle has appeared both in decorative frames and as printers' marks almost from the advent of printing. A small number of examples of the latter are Robert Wyer (mid-sixteenth century), whose mark consisted of representations of St. John the Divine writing, assisted by an eagle holding an inkhorn; Rowland Hall (mid-sixteenth century), whose mark was the half eagle and key; and Gerard Leeu, whose Dialogus Creaturarum was printed in more than a dozen editions in Latin or Dutch from 1480 into the first year of the sixteenth century at Gouda and Antwerp. Its elaborate mark in Antwerp featured, among its many details, an eagle. (8)

The eagle has also been employed on the title pages of Hebrew books and, less frequently, as printers' pressmarks, and both are considered in this article. (9) Before beginning this discussion, several caveats are necessary. Despite the usage of the eagle in Jewish imagery, its employment on the title pages of Hebrew books described in this article is often not of Jewish significance and should not be assumed to be of Jewish content or symbolism. Indeed, Avraham Yaari, referring to printers' marks, informs us that "the eagle is usually the emblem of the country where the book was printed." (10)

The books that are described here are in chronological order; that is, they are arranged by the first use of a decorative frame or pressmark. Subsequent usages, even if decades later, are considered together with the first usage. Also, the books described here are examples of the representations of the eagle on title pages by printers and are in no way to be considered a complete listing of that usage. These caveats notwithstanding, the not infrequent appearance of eagles on the title pages of Hebrew books in a wide variety of locations is a matter of interest, indicative not only of the art of the Hebrew books but also of how those books were presented to the market, an overwhelmingly Jewish one, for those books, and, less frequently, as printers' pressmarks.

The first title for consideration is Mirkevet ha-Mishneh (Cracow, 1534); it was the first Yiddish book printed in Poland. Mirkevet ha-Mishneh is a concordance and glossary of the Bible by R. Asher Anshel of Cracow, published by Samuel, Asher, and Elyakim Halicz, sons of Hayyim Halicz. The identity of the author is uncertain. It has been suggested, based on the fact that the second edition (Cracow, 1584) is simply called Sefer shel R. Anshel, that the author was a person of repute and well known in the Jewish community. It is also possible that the author might be one of the printers, Asher Halicz. More likely, Mirkevet ha-Mishneh was written prior to the sixteenth century because many of the German terms date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

The text, in three double columns, is arranged alphabetically, organized with references and Yiddish translations of the words according to the principles in the Sefer ha-Shorashim of R. David Kimhi (Radak, ca. 1160-ca. 1235); that is, the root of a word is followed by its derivatives, its Yiddish translation (set in Vaybertaytsh), and its usage in the Bible. (11) The book's purposes included facilitating the study of the Bible for uneducated Jews, particularly women and children. The book also had polemical value in familiarizing Jews with the Bible, and thereby enabling them to respond in a disputation. The printers were financially unsuccessful and apostatized, and Jews would not purchase their books. Required to do so by the government, they then burned their copies, so that Mirkevet ha-Mishneh today is very rare.

The title page of Mirkevet ha-Mishneh contains a horseman wielding a sword, a crowned snake swallowing a boy, a crowned eagle, and a three-turreted castle, representing, respectively, the Duke of Lithuania, possibly the Duke of Milano, the Polish monarchy, and Cracow (fig. 1).

Remaining in Cracow, albeit somewhat out of chronological order, we find the eagle employed on the title pages of a small number of the books printed at the press of Menahem Nahum Meisels, established in 1630. Meisels had acquired the typographical equipment of the earlier Cracow press of the Prostitz family, and had new letters cast in Venice. Nevertheless, his books reflect the Prague style, no doubt due to the influence of his manager, Judah ha-Kohen of Prague.

Among the books with a frame of interest to us are Toledot Noah (1634), a commentary on Shemot (Exodus) Rabbah by R. Noah ben Pesah of Pinsk. Another title with a similar frame is Ahavat ha-Shem (1641, fig. 2), ethical discourses explicating the verse "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" by R. Jedidiah ben [Abraham] Israel Gottlieb (d. 1645) of Lvov, a popular preacher in many communities in Poland. The title page of these works has a decorative frame with an eagle at the top representative of the kingdom of Poland; at the bottom is an illustration representing the city of Cracow.

Vincenzo Conti, who printed Hebrew books in several cities in Italy, was active in Cremona, part of the Duchy of Milan, from 1556 to 1567. Conti's initial permission allowing him to print in Cremona concerned Latin books, which he began to do in 1555. The following year, Conti began to print Hebrew books, issuing more than forty titles in that location. Conti took great pride in the printing of his Hebrew books, having new fonts cast, rather than acquiring the worn letters from other presses, thus accounting for the clear and attractive look of his books, and employing skilled Jewish workers, such as R. Samuel Boehm and R. Zanvil Pescarol.

Conti used cursive rabbinic (Rashi) type for the text of his earlier books, until the fonts were burned in 1559. Square letters were cast to replace them, thus distinguishing his earlier and later works. Forced to discontinue printing for about five years, Conti was able to reopen the press in 1565. He printed Hebrew titles for two years, briefly relocated to Sabbioneta, and then returned to Cremona, where he again printed Latin but not Hebrew books. Meir Benayahu suggests that Conti not only allowed his press to be used, but actually invested in the Hebrew books he printed in Cremona. (12)

The title pages of many of Conti's Hebrew books have a cartouche above a medallion personifying Cremona. Other title pages, however, have an ornamental frame made up of four parts, enabling the printer to use them in other arrangements, although the order depicted here is the manner in which the parts are most often employed. The top frame has the face of a man and cherubim; on the sides are suits of armor, shrubs, and musical instruments; in the center of the left vertical frame are the letters SPQR, reputedly standing for Senatus Populusque Romanus; on the bottom is a two-headed crowned eagle; and on the sides, there are the cherubim. Howard Bayley suggests that the two-headed eagle represents "the double portion of Spirit miraculously bestowed upon Elisha." (13)

This frame was used by Conti in his early imprints, appearing in about ten works. Among the varied titles with this frame are the Sefer She'ilot u'Teshuvot (1556, figs. 3 and 4) of R. Jacob ben Moses Moellin (Maharil, ca. 1360-1447), with 205 responsa; Toledot Adam (1556) by R. Moses ben Elijah Gallena (fifteenth century) on chiromancy (palmistry) and phrenology; Sefer Keritut (1557) by the Tosafist R. Samson ben Isaac of Chinon, France, (ca. 1260-ca. 1330), which was a comprehensive work on talmudic methodology; Sefer She'ilot u'Teshuvot (1557) of R. Meir ben Baruch of Rothenburg (Maharam, ca. 1215-93), with 315 responsa; and Zori ha-Yagon (1557) by the poet, philosopher, and scientist R. Joseph ibn Falaquera (Palquera, ca. 1225-95) (this volume was written as a consolation for the soul of man).

Another border employed by Conti is a decorative architectural frame with figurines in the bottom squares and cherubim at the top along the sides. Above the arch is the vignette of Akedat Yizhak (binding of Isaac), surmounted by an eagle. Below the vignette is a verse, varying by title. At the sides of the vignette are figurines holding cornucopias. The sides of the frame have several designs with faces and at the bottom of the frame are two squatting figures. This was employed by Conti in three titles: the Arba'ah Turim (1558), the halakhic compendium of R. Jacob ben Asher (ca. 1270-1340); the Zohar (1559-60), the classic kabbalistic work of Jewish mysticism, attributed to the tanna R. Simeon bar Yohai (mid-second century ce); and the She'elot u'Teshuvot (1567) of R. Joseph ben Solomon Colon (ca. 1420-80).

The frame is of particular interest to us for two reasons. First, the inclusion of the Akedat vignette is a Jewish theme, in contrast to the previously noted title pages that had no Jewish content, and secondly, that it is instructive as to the widespread use of typographical material in varied and distant locations. This title page appears on books in such disparate locations (in addition to Cremona) as Venice, Padua, and Cracow. Samuel ben Isaac Boehm, a master printer, worked for presses in all four of these locations. After Cremona, the frame appears on several books printed in Venice, among them the She'elot u'Teshuvot (1565) of R. Levi ibn Habib (Ralbah, ca. 1483-1545), the son of Jacob ibn Habib (ca. 1445-1515/16, fig. 5), author of the Ein Ya'akov, without the name of the printer and no mention of Boehm--although his name does appear on the title page of other books--who was employed at that time by Giovanni Grypho and Giorgio di Cavalli. Benayahu suggests that Conti had sold the frame to the Hebrew printer in Mantua, for it was no longer available for his folio Pentateuch (1566), and the Mantua printer resold it to Grypho and di Cavalli. (14)

Boehm also worked at the Latin and Italian book press of Lorenzo Pasquato, publishing two Hebrew books: Derekh Emunah (1562) by R. Meir ben Ezekiel ibn Gabbai (1480-ca. 1540) and Derashot alha-Torah (1567) by R. Shem Tov [ben Joseph] ibn Shem Tov (fifteenth century), the latter only with the frame with the Akedat vignette. (15) Finally, Boehm joined the Prostitz Press, bringing typographical equipment and this frame to Cracow, where it appears on the title page of several books, among them Sefer ha-Aguddah (1571, fig. 6, a detail) by R. Alexander Suslin ha-Kohen (d. 1349), Derashot al ha-Torah (1573-75) by R. Joshua ibn Shuaib (first half of the fourteenth century), and a Shulhan Arukh (1578-80).

We turn now to Thiengin, Germany, where in 1560, Eliezer and Joseph ben Naphtali Hertz Treves printed Adam Sedkheli (fig. 7), a kabbalistic and philosophic treatise by R. Simeon ben Samuel (fourteenth century), of French or German birth. The intent of Adam Sedkheli, stated on the title page, is to save souls from destruction. The text encompasses the Decalogue, thirteen attributes of God (shelosh esreh middot), thirteen articles of faith, and resurrection, with a commentary by the author. The book, written about 1400, is completed with a poetic kabbalistic entreaty, Or Kadmon, which exhorts God to "[further] rescue us from the cruel decrees [following] the four miracles [performed] for us this year [1400]." The miracles are enumerated as follows:

   Salvation from a decree of death in the Jubilee year
   Rescue from thousands, all dressed in white
   Deliverance from the murderous brigades of Geissler
   The abdication of the Shameful King [Wentzel], who persecuted us
   for many years.


The text of the title page of Adam Sedkheli is set within a woodcut architectural frame. The two upper corners have shields, the right shield with a key and the left a double-headed eagle.

Yefeh Mareh (Venice, 1590) is a commentary on the aggadot of the Jerusalem Talmud by R. Samuel Jaffe ben Isaac Ashkenazi (ca. 1525-95). Printed at the press of Giovanni di Gara, the title page also makes mention of Giovanni and Alvise Bragadin and has the latter's device, three crowns, reflecting a period when the two print shops collaborated. The verso of the title page has an introduction from Asher Parenzo, the printer, followed at the bottom of the page by a pressmark with a mount (hill) (fig. 8) standing in the midst of the sea, to the left of which is an eagle, above it is a garland, and about it is the verse "Since you were precious [in my sight,] you were honored, [and I have loved you]" (Isaiah 43:4). What Parenzo had in mind in using this device, which does not appear in any other work by di Gara, is not known.

This printer's device was sold, together with other Bragadin typographical material, to the Livorno printer Jedidiah ben Abraham Gabbai. In 1657, Gabbai sent his son Abraham, who had worked in the Livorno press, with much of their typographical equipment to Izmir to establish a Hebrew print shop, the first in that city. Abraham Gabbai remained in Izmir until 1660, when he left for Constantinople, printing Hebrew books there for a brief period of time. Gabbai subsequently returned to Izmir, printing until 1675, primarily Hebrew books, but also two Spanish titles. He established a new Hebrew press in 1684, in Salonika, one that was active for several years, although not always under his control.

One book only was printed in Izmir with this pressmark, Abraham's first title, Rosh Yosef (1657-58, fig. 9), halakhic novellae on Tur Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayyim by R. Joseph ben Saul Escapa (1570-1662). Here, however, the eagle and the laurel above the mount are omitted from the device, and a different verse appears in the frame, "get up to the high mountain" (Isaiah 40:9). (16) The printer's device also appears but once in a Constantinople imprint, Sedeh Yehoshu'a (1662), the commentary of R. Joshua Raphael ben Israel Benveniste (d. ca. 1667-68) on the Jerusalem Talmud on the bottom of the second page. The eagle and the laurel are again in place, but the verse remains get up to the high mountain." (17)

In the first half of the seventeenth century, Amsterdam (Almsterdam) came to be home to the most important Hebrew presses in Europe; it was not only a Hebrew, but also a European printing center. Amsterdam, which did not have a single Hebrew press or print shop that published books with Hebrew letters in 1600, was to become the foremost center of Hebrew printing within several decades of the seventeenth century. The printing of Hebrew books in Amsterdam for Jews begins in 1627 with Menasseh Ben Israel, whose first title, a Sephardic rite prayer book, was completed on 1 January 1627. (18) Among Menasseh's titles is a small octavo-format Hebrew Bible (1630-31), the first of three Hebrew Bibles printed by Menasseh at this time, the others being a quarto-format Bible (1631-36) and a Pentateuch with Haftorat and Targum Onkelos (1631) preceded by a comparable Spanish Bible, Humas de Parasioth y Aftharoth (1627). The title page of the first of these works has an architectural frame with straight pillars and an eagle at the apex of the frame.

This frame appears on books printed in Amsterdam by Uri Phoebus ben Aaron Witmund ha-Levi, who would print about one hundred titles, from 1658 to 1689, the period he was active in Amsterdam. Among the titles with this frame are the popular Yalkut Hadash (1659, fig. 10) by R. (Jacob) Israel ben Benjamin of Belzec (ca. 1623-ca. 1678), assorted homilies from diverse sources collected and arranged by the author. The text states that, due to its great value, "it became rare in a brief period of time 'like the vulture (eagle) that swoops on its prey' (Job 9:26) and the eye no longer sees it. Nevertheless, by a few families two may be found, in a city by a few," referring to previous editions of Yalkut Hadash published in Lublin (1648) and Prague (1657). It would soon be reprinted in Wilhermsdorf (1673) and Prague (1687). In the copy of Yalkut Hadash examined, there are slight differences at the bottom of the frame from that employed by Menasseh Ben Israel, but the essential frame and the eagle are unchanged.

A second architectural frame was used by Uri Phoebus, in which the eagle appears on two somewhat similar title pages; both architectural frames have an eagle at the apex. In this border, on such titles as Or Hadash (ca. 1671-75) by R. Hayyim ben Benjamin Ze'ev Bochner (ca. 1610-84) on the laws of benedictions in a concise and abridged form and Sha'arei Ziyyon (1671, fig. 11) of R. Nathan Nata ben Moses Hannover (d. 1683), a collection of Lurianic kabbalistic prayers, particularly for Tikkun Hazot (midnight prayers). The title is from "The Lord loves the gates of Zion [sha'arei Ziyyon] more than all the dwellings of Jacob" (Psalms 87:2). In contrast to the earlier frame on Yalkut Hadash, the pillars are curved and entwined with vines. Most interesting is that the eagles, otherwise alike, face in different directions.

In 1691, Uri Phoebus relocated to Poland. Phoebus, faced with competition from the large number of Hebrew printers in Amsterdam, felt that he would be more successful in Poland, located closer to its large Jewish population, a major market for the Hebrew printing houses of Amsterdam. He had been granted the previous year the right by King John Sobieski to establish a Hebrew printing house in Zolkiew. There is some dispute as to when Uri Phoebus issued his first title, but in 1693 or 1694, he published the tractate Shevu'ot (fig. 12) from the Babylonian Talmud. (19) Four tractates (the others are Sukkah, Kiddushin, and Ta'anit) are credited to Uri Phoebus, but Sukkah is generally believed to be a Dyhernfurth imprint, and the other two are in doubt. Shevu'ot, in contrast, was certainly printed in Zolkiew, as it clearly states the place of printing, date, and name of the printer. The tractate name is in white ornamental letters, each in a separate block, except the letter l (vav), which is in black and not in an ornamental block. At the bottom of the page is a crowned eagle, representing the Polish monarchy. At the sides of the eagle are I and III (at the top), R and P (at the bottom), and (Ioannes III--[Sobieski] Rex Polonaiae) with the date (along the sides). Two sets of three fleurons (blurred, possibly due to the manner of inking when they were printed) are above the word king in Hebrew.

Another pressmark that employs an eagle is that of Sabbatai Mattathias Bath Sheba (Basevi) and his family, active primarily but not only in Salonika. Scion of an Italian Jewish family from Verona of German origin, Bath Sheba was accompanied to Salonika by his wife, Fioretta, and his two sons, Abraham Joseph (or Joseph Abraham) and Abraham. Their press is credited with about forty titles from 1592 to 1605. The sponsor and patron of the Bath Sheba printing house was Moses de Medina, a wealthy scholar and prominent philanthropist. Moses de Medina--the son of R. Samuel ben Moses de Medina (Maharashdam, 1506-89), one of the leading rabbinic figures in Salonika--intended to sponsor the press to print his father's responsa and talmudic treatises in order, inter alia, to support the local Talmud Torah.

Reputedly to secure financing for printing the Talmud, Abraham Bath Sheba was sent to Italy. Among his travels, Abraham became associated with the Verona press of Francesco dalle Donne. (20) Among the books Abraham printed in Verona is the Kuhbukh, a small profusely illustrated Yiddish collection of fables. The Kuhbukh contains eighty-three woodcut scenes to accompany thirty-five fables. The woodcuts are often two to a page, each taking up almost a third of the page. After each fable, its moral is made clear in verse in Yiddish. The Kuhbuch is set in Vaybertaytsh with limited amounts of square type appearing on the title page and colophon. At the end of the book is Abraham's pressmark, a crowned lion and a crowned eagle (the crowned lion on the left and the crowned eagle on the right, back to back). (21)

It was, however, in Salonika that the family was most active, and it is there that a larger number of books have the crowned lion and a crowned eagle pressmark. It appears within different frames, with and without the family name in the frame. Two examples are She'erit Yehudah (1599-1600) by R. Samuel ben Solomon Taitazak, halakhic novellae and annotations on the Beit Yosef on the Tur Y D. of R. Joseph Caro (1488-1575), where the pressmark appears at the end of the volume (fig. 13) in an ornate frame with cherubim at the top and figurines at the sides (and within the frame the names of both Mattathias and Abraham Bath Sheba) and Heshek Shelomo (1599-1600) by R. Solomon ben Isaac le-Bet ha-Levi (1532-1600), a commentary on the book of Isaiah. The lion / eagle ensign appears towards the end of the volume before the indices. Here it is in a smaller format in a simple frame (fig. 14). (22)

Moshe N. Rosenfeld observes that it has been suggested that the lion represents Bohemia and the eagle Austria, commenting that he does not see "any immediate family ties with these countries." He suggests that perhaps this device was selected to emphasize the family's Ashkenazic origins, especially as they were now situated in Salonika, a Sephardic center.

This discussion concludes with the most striking title page to use the eagle motif in this article. It was first employed by Joseph Athias (ca. 1635-1700) in Amsterdam and afterwards elsewhere, but, as we shall see, it is most appropriately associated with his name. The Athias family press was established by Joseph, who was born in Spain and, via Portugal and Germany, eventually reached Amsterdam. (23) Joseph's father, Jorge Mendez de Castro, had been burned alive at an auto-da-fe in Cordova in 1665, a fact mentioned on the title pages of a Bible (1666-67) and an Ashkenazi prayer book (1667-68). In 1658 at the age of twenty-three, Athias founded the press, which would be active into the eighteenth century. A successful and wide-ranging printer, he published in Hebrew, Yiddish, Portuguese, and Spanish. He utilized attractive fonts, including those of the famed Elsevier Press, purchased after the death of Daniel Elsevier, and including the non-Hebrew type cut by Christoffel van Dijck. Although it is not known with certainty where he acquired his Hebrew fonts, it has been suggested that they were prepared by the Hungarian typecutter Nikolas Kis. (24)

Athias began printing with a Sephardic rite prayer book in 1658. The following year, he began publishing an attractive and important edition of the Hebrew Bible (Biblia sacra Hebraea, 1659-61). It is the first Hebrew Bible to employ Arabic numerals for the numeration of chapters and verses. There are four copperplate title pages. The first, Tikkun Sefer Torah, has two cherubim blowing horns near the top, and five detailed vignettes of biblical scenes, including one, spanning the top of the page, of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. The three other decorative title pages have the eagle motif.

Among the books from the Athias press with the eagle motif title page is that of R. Abraham ben Mordecai Azulai (ca. 1570-1643), Hesedle-Avraham (1685, fig. 15), which are kabbalistic discourses. An almost simultaneous edition of Hesed le-Avraham was printed in Sulzbach; it is not certain which edition was printed first. The decorative title page consists of two cherubim blowing horns at the top and an eagle with spread wings at the bottom. Within the wings is a carriage and figures, and in the middle of this scenario is a depiction of the Patriarch Jacob meeting Joseph in Egypt, recalling "And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself to him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while" (Genesis 46:29). To fully appreciate the emotive nature of this biblical image, the reader should recall that Jacob had not seen Joseph, the first-born son of his favorite wife, Rachel, for twenty-two years; he was presumed dead and torn apart by wild beasts. Below the image is a thin banner with the date given in a chronogram. Describing this title page and the use of the eagle, Avraham Yaari wrote this commentary:

   But in one printers' mark, that of Joseph Atthias [sic] of
   Amsterdam, the eagle is the emblem of the printer himself. The bird
   is shown with outstretched wings on which the meeting of Joseph
   with Jacob in Egypt is portrayed. The Biblical scene is intended to
   suggest that the printer's name was Joseph, while the eagle itself
   may symbolize the verse "I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought
   you unto myself" (Exodus 19:4). Possibly the printer intended to
   hint that he was a Marrano (secret observer of Judaism) who had
   taken refuge under the wings of the Shekina (Divine presence). Or
   the eagle may have been intended as a hint that the printers' old
   father died a martyr's death, suggesting the Biblical verse applied
   to martyrs: "They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than
   lions" (II Samuel i:23). (25)


This title page was later reused in books in several locations without consideration of the symbolism relating it to Athias. We find it reemployed in Amsterdam by Hirtz Levi Rofe, for example, on Emek Berakhah (1729) by R. Abraham ben Shabbetai Sheftel Horowitz (ca. 1550-1615) on prayers and benedictions. The only difference is that the banner now has the name of the printer rather than the date. It also appears on several books printed in Dyhernfurth. (26)

We also find this title page on books printed in other locations with modifications. For example, it was employed in Frankfurt on Oder by Johann Christoph Beckman and Michael Gottschalk. Beckman, a professor of Greek language, history, and theology at the University of Frankfurt, who had already been operating a printing press, obtained a license to publish Hebrew books in 1675. By 1693, however, Beckman found that his responsibilities at the university left him with insufficient time for the press. He therefore contracted with Michael Gottschalk, a local bookbinder and bookdealer, to manage the printing house, transferring all of the typographical equipment and material to Gottschalk, their arrangement being noted on the title pages of the books issued by the press with the phrase "with the letters of lord Johann Christoph Beckman, Doctor and Professor ... at the press of Michael Gottschalk." They printed a number of books with the slightly modified eagle frame, the most notable difference being the absence of the banner with the date and at the bottom scenes possibly of Frankfurt. One example is R. Samuel ben Moses (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) of Swislotz, Russia's Shem Shemu'el (1699, fig. 16), a kabbalistic commentary on the Torah based to a large extent upon the book of Psalms. The frame was used yet again in Frankfurt on Oder by Professor Grillo on R. Meir ben Eliezer Liberman Segal's Meir ha-Shahar (1749). This frame appears in yet other locations, such as Prague and Berlin. In the former, at the Bak Press, the banner reappears but is blank. Some title pages, such as Perush ha-Rosh ve-ha-Ravid z'l (1728) have the banner with the name of the printer in Hebrew and below the frame in German "Mit Bewilliung der Obrigkeit" (with the approval of the authorities) and the name of the press. R. Mordecai ben Enoch Judah's Mor Deror (1738), talmudic novellae, states in Latin that it was "Cum Licentis Superium," that is, with the approval of the censor, and below in German that it was printed in Prague. In Berlin, in contrast, in another edition of Tyrnau's Minhagim (1703, fig. 17), the frame has the banner in the eagle's beak giving the date, the emotive biblical scene is absent, replaced by a shield, and the eagle is holding a sword in one talon and a scepter in the other. The eagle image here has been modified from the earlier poignant depiction to one representing royal authority, depicted by the shield, sword, and scepter.

The title pages described here with eagle motifs are often, as Yaari noted, "the emblem of the country where the book was printed," for example, Mirkevet ha-Mishneh and Ahavet ha-Shem in Cracow and the tractate Shevu'ot in Zolkiew. The significance of the eagles in pressmarks varies; its meaning, as was noted for the Bath Sheba pressmark, is unclear. However, its employment by Joseph Athias is meaningful and moving, thereby accounting for its repeated reuse by later printers who were unaware of its original import. Additional eagle motifs appear as pressmarks on Hebrew books in the following centuries. They are, however, beyond the scope of this article.

This article began with several biblical quotes in support of the contention that the eagle is a majestic bird. It is arguable that the popularity of the eagle, undiminished to this day, remains best expressed by the biblical verses used to describe the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt ("how I carried you on eagles wings") and the concept of excellence ("Will you set your eyes on it? It is already gone; for riches suddenly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle towards the sky") (Proverbs 23:5).

APPENDIX: BIBLICAL VERSES CONTAINING REFERENCES TO THE EAGLE AS [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

   "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you
   on eagles wings, and brought you to myself" [Exodus 19:4].

   "And these are they which you shall have in abomination among the
   birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination; the eagle,
   and the bearded vulture, and the black vulture" [Leviticus 11:13].

   "But these are they of which you shall not eat; the eagle, and the
   vulture, and the osprey" [Deuteronomy 14:12].

   "The Lord shall bring a nation against you from far, from the end
   of the earth, which will swoop down like the eagle; a nation whose
   tongue you shall not understand" [Deuteronomy 28:49].

   "As an eagle stirs up its nest, flutters over its young, spreads
   out its wings, takes them, bears them on its pinions" [Deuteronomy
   32:11].

   "Saul and Jonathan were loved and dear in their lives, and in their
   death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they
   were stronger than lions" [II Samuel 1:23].

   "But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they
   shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be
   weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" [Isaiah 40:31].

   "Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a
   stormy wind;

   his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are ruined"
   [Jeremiah 4:13].

   "For thus says the Lord; Behold, he shall fly like an eagle, and
   shall spread his wings over Moab" [Jeremiah 48:40].

   "Your terribleness has deceived you, and the pride of your heart, O
   you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, who hold the height of the
   hill; though you should make your nest as high as the eagle, I will
   bring you down from there, says the Lord" [Jeremiah 49:16].

   "Behold, he shall come up and fly as the eagle, and spread his
   wings over Bozrah; and at that day shall the heart of the mighty
   men of Edom be as the heart of a woman in her pangs" [Jeremiah
   49:22].

   "As for the likeness of their faces, the four had the face of a
   man, and the face of a lion, on the right side; and the four had
   the face of an ox on the left side; the four also had the face of
   an eagle" [Ezekiel 1:10].

   "And everyone had four faces; the first face was the face of a
   cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third
   the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle" [Ezekiel
   10:14].

   "And say, Thus says the Lord God; A great eagle with great wings,
   and long pinions, rich in feathers of many colors, came to Lebanon,
   and took the top of the cedar" [Ezekiel 17:3].

   "There was also another great eagle with great wings and many
   feathers; and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and
   send out its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted,
   that he might water it" [Ezekiel 17:7].

   "Set the shofar to your mouth. He shall come like an eagle against
   the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant,
   and trespassed against my Torah" [Hosea 8:1].

   "Though you soar aloft like the eagle, and though you set your nest
   among the stars, from there will I bring you down, says the Lord"
   [Obadiah 1:4].

   "Make yourself bald, and cut off* your hair for the children of
   your delight; make your head bald like an eagle; for they shall go
   from you into exile" [Mica 1:16].

   "Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more
   fierce than evening wolves; and their horsemen shall spread
   themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly
   like a vulture hastening to devour" [Habakkuk 1:8].

   "They pass away like swift ships; like the eagle that swoops on the
   prey" [Job 9:26].

   "Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make her nest on
   high" [Job 39:27].

   "The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings; I looked till
   its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the earth,
   and made to stand upon its feet as a man, and a man's heart was
   given to it" [Daniel 7:4].

   "Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is
   renewed like the eagle's" [Psalms 103:5].

   "Will you set your eyes on it? It is already gone; for riches
   suddenly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle towards
   the sky" [Proverbs 23:5].

   "The eye that mocks at his father, and scorns to obey his mother,
   will be picked out by the ravens of the valley, and the young
   eagles shall eat it" [Proverbs 30:17].

   "The way of an eagle in the sky; the way of a serpent on a rock;
   the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man
   with a young woman" [Proverbs 30:19].


(1.) Yisrael Isser Herczeg, The Torah: With Rashi's Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated (Brooklyn, N.Y, 1997), 22.

(2.) Biblical translations are based on Judaic Classics (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Davka Corporation, 1991-2001) by David Kantrowitz.

(3.) Others who have employed the eagle as a symbol include the ancient Egyptians; the Greeks; the Byzantines; Charlemagne; the Mercian Kings of England; Saladin; Napoleon; and English, Russian, and Polish rulers. Moreover, the eagle is popular in heraldry.

(4.) Dante, Purgatory (Canto II), quoted in The Lost Language of Symbolism (London, 1912, repr., New York, 1993) by Howard Bayley, 1:77.

(5.) Pinchus Presworsky, Birds of the Torah: A Supplement to the Study of Yoreh De'ah (New York, 2011), 31. Presworsky comments, regarding nesher, that "the identification of this bird is not known. Tosfos (Chulin 63a) states that nesher is definitely not the eagle, since the eagle has a projecting toe and the nesher has all four non-kosher signs. Some translate it as Rupell's griffon vulture, which is also not correct since the griffon vulture has an extra toe." Parenthetically, English speakers conversant with Hebrew generally translate nesher [llPj] as eagle and ayit as vulture, as reflected in Hebrew-English Bibles and prayer books. In contrast, Israelis often translate nesher as vulture and ayit as eagle. Concerning this, see http://www.balashon. com/2007/06/nesher-and-ayit.html.

(6.) The eagle [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is mentioned thirty-two times in the Babylonian Talmud and fifteen times in the Jerusalem Talmud; these are not significant numbers, but greater than bear [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (four), hare [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (four), and tiger [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (eight), although appreciably less than lion [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (eighty-two). For a list of all of the biblical verses with references to a form of eagle [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], see the appendix at the end of the article. An interpretive article on the usage of several of the verses appears in "Ambiguities of the Eagle" by Dan Vogel in the Jewish Bible Quarterly (36, no. 2 [April/June 1998]: 85-92).

(7.) Steven H. Werlin, Eagle Imagery in Jewish Relief Sculpture of Late Ancient Palestine: Survey and Interpretation (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill thesis, 2006), 111.

(8.) William Roberts, Printers' Marks: A Chapter in the History of Typography (New York: George Bell and Sons, 1893), 68, 84, 184-85.

(9.) Marvin J. Heller, The Sixteenth Century Hebrew Book: An Abridged Thesaurus (Leiden: Brill, 2004); and Marvin J. Heller, The Seventeenth Century Hebrew Book: An Abridged Thesaurus (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011).

(10.) Avraham Yaari, Hebrew Printers' Marks from the Beginning of Hebrew Printing to the End of the 19th Century (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Press Association, 1943), ix. It should also be noted, although this is less true for most of the title pages with eagles addressed here, that the attractive decorative frames on the title pages of mid-sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Hebrew books frequently belonged to and were provided by the non-Jewish printer to his Jewish associate, who, in many locations, was prohibited from owning a press in his own right. Their arrangement was mutually beneficial. For the Jewish associate, commissioning a woodcut frame was expensive and often not justifiable for the smaller Jewish market; the non-Jewish partner had access to the Hebrew book market that was less competitive and therefore more profitable than his own.

(11.) Vaybertaytsh is a distinct type family used primarily, although not exclusively, for Yiddish books.

(12.) Meir Benayahu, Hebrew Printing at Cremona: Its History and Bibliography (Jerusalem, 1971), 13-15. See also David Werner Amram, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy: Being Chapters in the History of the Hebrew Printing Press (London: Holland Press, 1963), 306-20.

(13.) Bayley, The Lost Language of Symbolism, 1:76-77.

(14.) Benayahu, Hebrew Printing at Cremona, 21-22.

(15.) Marvin J. Heller, "'There were in Padua almost as many Hebrew printers as Hebrew books': The Sixteenth Century Hebrew Press in Padua," Gutenberg-Jahrbuch (Mainz, 2003), 86-92; and Marvin J. Heller, "Akedat Yitzhak (the Binding of Isaac) on the Title-Pages of Early Hebrew Books," Further Studies in the Making of the Early Hebrew Book (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013), 35-56.

(16.) Yaari, Hebrew Printers' Marks, 23, 137, no. 66.

(17.) Marvin J. Heller, "Jedidiah ben Isaac Gabbai and the First Decade of Hebrew Printing in Livorno," Los Muestros, part 1, no. 33, 40-41; and part 2, no. 34, 28-30; and Marvin J. Heller, "Kaf Nahat and Hebrew Printing in Izmir," Los Muestros, part 1, no. 75, 7-8; part 2, no. 76, 7-8; and part 3, no. 77, 7-8.

(18.) L. Fuks and R. G. Fuks-Mansfeld, Hebrew Typography in the Northern Netherlands, 1585-1815 (Leiden: Brill, 1984), 1:137-39. Rival claims for the honor of printing the first Hebrew book in Amsterdam are well beyond the subject matter of this article. Nevertheless, the claim of Daniel de Fonesca to have published the first Amsterdam Hebrew imprint, Shevilei Emmunah, of R. Meir ben Isaac Aldabi (aben Aldabi Sefardi, ca. 1310-after 1360) should be noted.

(19.) Ch. B. Friedberg, History of Hebrew Typography in Poland from Its Beginning in the Year 1534 and Its Development to the Present (Tel Aviv, 1950), 62; and Fuks and Fuks-Mansfeld, Hebrew Typography in the Northern Netherlands, 2:241-42.

(20.) Israel Mehlman, "Hebrew Printing in Salonika," Genuzot Sefarim (Jerusalem, 1976), 56-57; Marvin J. Heller, "The Bath-Sheba / Moses de Medina Salonika Edition of Berakhot: An Unknown Attempt to Circumvent the Inquisition's Ban on the Printing of the Talmud in Sixteenth Century Italy," Jewish Quarterly Review 87 (1996): 47-60; and Marvin J. Heller, "A Little Known Chapter in Hebrew Printing: Francesco dalle Donne and the Beginning of Hebrew Printing in Verona in the Sixteenth Century," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 94:3 (2000): 333-46.

(21.) Yaari, Hebrew Printers' Marks, 30, 141, no. 48; and Moshe N. Rosenfeld, The Book of Cows: A Facsimile Edition of the Famed "Kuhbuch" (London: Hebraica Books, 1984), n.p.

(22.) Marvin J. Heller, "Mars and Minerva on the Hebrew Title Page," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 98, no. 3 (2004): 269-92. Another work with the same frame with the crowned lion and eagle as in She'erit Yehudah is Sefer ha-Terumot (Salonika, 1596) by R. Samuel ben Isaac ha-Sardi (ca. 1190-1255), influential halakhic code dealing with monetary matters, where it appears on the title page. Widely used, this frame was first employed

(20.) Israel Mehlman, "Hebrew Printing in Salonika," Genuzot Sefarim (Jerusalem, 1976), 56-57; Marvin J. Heller, "The Bath-Sheba / Moses de Medina Salonika Edition of Berakhot: An Unknown Attempt to Circumvent the Inquisition's Ban on the Printing of the Talmud in Sixteenth Century Italy," Jewish Quarterly Review 87 (1996): 47-60; and Marvin J. Heller, "A Little Known Chapter in Hebrew Printing: Francesco dalle Donne and the Beginning of Hebrew Printing in Verona in the Sixteenth Century," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 94:3 (2000): 333-46.

(21.) Yaari, Hebrew Printers' Marks, 30, 141, no. 48; and Moshe N. Rosenfeld, The Book of Cows: A Facsimile Edition of the Famed "Kuhbuch" (London: Hebraica Books, 1984), n.p.

(22.) Marvin J. Heller, "Mars and Minerva on the Hebrew Title Page," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 98, no. 3 (2004): 269-92. Another work with the same frame with the crowned lion and eagle as in She'erit Yehudah is Sefer ha-Terumot (Salonika, 1596) by R. Samuel ben Isaac ha-Sardi (ca. 1190-1255), influential halakhic code dealing with monetary matters, where it appears on the title page. Widely used, this frame was first employed by Francesco Minizio (Giulio) Calvo on Latin and Italian books in Rome and Milan. After it passed into Jewish hands, it appears in Hebrew books printed in such diverse locations as Sabbioneta, Cracow, and Salonika.

(23.) A. M. Habermann, "The Amsterdam Printer Joseph Athias, Inventor of Stereotype Printing," Studies in the History of Hebrew Printers and Books (Jerusalem, 1978), 311.

(24.) A. M. Habermann and A. K. Offenberg, "Athias, Joseph and Immanuel," Encyclopaedia Judaica (Detroit, Mich.: Macmillan Reference, 2007), 2:632-33.

(25.) Yaari, Hebrew Printers' Marks, ix, 45, 149-50, no. 73.

(26.) A. M. Habermann, Title Pages of Hebrew Books (Tel Aviv, 1969), 50-51, 129, nos. 36-37; Marvin J. Heller, "Mirror-image Monograms as Printers' Devices on the Title Pages of Hebrew Books Printed in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries," Printing History 40 (2000): 2-11. The reuse of pressmarks specific to a publisher by other printers unaware of the press-mark's original association is not a rare occurrence. For example, the mirror-image monogram of Michael Gottschalk of Frankfurt on Oder, with the elongated letters not immediately evident to readers, was employed by other printers, and in one instance inverted. The title page of Mihagim (Dyhernfurth, 1690) by R. Yitzhak Isaac Tyrnau (d. 1439-52) states that it is "as printed in Amsterdam" and below, in smaller letters that it was printed in Dyhernfurth. Many presses in Central Europe in the early eighteenth century wrote that they were using "Amsterdam" letters, in a large font, and the place of printing in a smaller type, due to the prestige of the Amsterdam presses. The Dyhernfurth Mihagim is unusual only in that the emphasis is on the previous edition rather than the Amsterdam letters.

Marvin J. Heller writes books and articles on early Hebrew printing and bibliography. His Printing the Talmud: A History of the Individual Treatises Printed from 1700 to 1750 (Leiden, 1999) and The Sixteenth Century Hebrew Book: An Abridged Thesaurus (Leiden, 2004) were recipients, respectively, of the 1999 and 2004 Research and Special Libraries Division Award of the Association of Jewish Libraries for Bibliography.
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