Jewish Woman Printer

This rare edition of the Machzor (prayer book) belonged to the Rev. Benjamin Safer (1872-1959), the first rabbi of Jacksonville. The text is based on the famous nine-volume Machzor produced by Rabbi Wolf Heidenheim in 1800 CE. Heidenheim’s Machzor included, in addition to the Hebrew text, the first pure German translation (in Hebrew characters) of the liturgical poems for the festivals. Heidenheim devoted great care to typographical setup as well as to the restoration of the correct text of the prayers. His edition of the Machzor was so well regarded that numerous haskamot (rabbinic prohibitions) were issued against reprinting it. Nevertheless, its popularity was such that many reprints were surreptitiously produced in the mid to late 19th century.

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This particular edition was printed by Pessel Balaban, the most famous Jewish woman printer in Lemberg during the second half of the 19th century. While her husband Pinhus Moshe Balaban was alive she was very active in his printing business, issuing copies of the Bible with commentaries, but after his death she expanded the press, producing high-quality editions of halakhic texts such as the Shulhan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law). Pessel Balaban was the best-known of a number of Jewish women printers who were active in Lemberg in the 19th century distributing copies of Jewish religious texts throughout Eastern Europe.

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