Selichos Mikol Hashanah – one of the first Hebrew books printed in England by a Jewish printer – London, 1770

8 sel 1

This is one of the first books printed by a Jewish printer in London.  It is the Selichos (penitential prayers) for the High-Holydays and Fast Days, according to the custom of the Jewish communities of Poland, Hungary and Moravia, יצ״ו  which is the abbreviation for yevarchem tzurenu veyishmerem – “may (God) our stronghold bless them and protect them.”

The inscription at the bottom of the first page reads that it was printed at the house of William Tooke at the new press which was established by the partners Isaac the son of Yedidiah, Moshe the son of Gershon and Jacob the son of Yissachar the Cohen, sellers and printers of books.  They were a group of London Jews who imported new type and typesetters from Amsterdam and set up shop  in the premises of William Tooke who also printed other Hebrew books. They printed two or three books that year, and it is not clear which was published first.  This is the first edition of Selichos printed in London.

8 sel 2The traditional orthodox Selichos service has not changed at all.  I have taken my copy (very gently!) to the Synagogue and used it to say Selichos.  This 250-year old book is still serviceable today, in spite of being almost the oldest Hebrew book printed in England.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 sel 3This edition also has the Selichos composed by Rabbi Avigdor Kara and his son Rabbi Avraham on the Gezeiros Prague.  Rabbi Avigdor Kara was a kabbalist and poet.  he was appointed Dayan (judge) in Prague in about 1389. Kara is the author of the elegy in this page,  Et Kol ha-Tela’ah asher Meẓa’asnu which commemorates the sufferings which overtook the Jews of Prague on the last day of Passover 1389, as a result of an false accusation. This elegy was recited by the Jews of Prague during the Mincḥa service on the Day of Atonement. .

 

 

 

 

8 sel 4At the end if the book, on the last page, are the signatures of the typesetters, in Hebrew,

They state that the type was set by:

The single man Moses the son of Hertz from the community of Amsterdam, now residing in London.

The single man Shmuel the son of Mendele from the community of Amsterdam, now residing in London.

The single man Yosef the son of Shlomo from the community of Amsterdam, now residing in London.

The single man Yakov the son of Gedaliah from the community of Amsterdam, now residing in London.

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