This was the very first book printed by Israel Narodiczky, probably the most important Hebrew and Yiddish printer in London in the 20th Century. He was born in Zhitomir in the Ukraine in 1874 and studied at the Yeshiva of Volozhin. Back in Zhitomir he learned to be a typesetter in a print shop on order to make a living. In 1896 he arrived in London, and he printed the first twelve issue’s of Rudolf Rocker’s periodical Zherminal, before setting up his print shop at 48 Mile End Road.
The book is by Matityahu Levin and is undated, except that one of the haskamos (approbations) has a date of 1901. I have been unable to find out anything about him other than that he was from Kakhowka, a town in the Ukrainian province of Tavriya (or Taurida), which includes the Crimea and the area to its north. Perhaps he was an acquaintance of Israel Narodiczky from Russia. The book also seems to be fairly rare. OCLC lists only two copies in libraries worldwide, at the Library of Congress, and the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Pirchei Chemed starts with a short poem dedicated to Dov Stavitsky. (The pages are reversed in the original, but I have corrected this):
This is followed by four approbations, all slightly obscure – I have not found them listed elsewhere:
- Rabbi Yitzchak Yakov Turek of Kakhowka
- Ben Tzion Kretshmerowski of Simferopol (in the Crimea)
- Dr. Perelman from Simferopol
- Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Tzvi Skomarowski of Zhitomir