The art of Hebrew printing began in the fifteenth century, but it was the sixteenth century that saw its true flowering. As pioneers, the first Hebrew printers laid the groundwork for all the achievements to come, setting standards of typography and textual authenticity that still inspire admiration and awe.1 But it was in the sixteenth century that the Hebrew book truly came of age, spreading to new centers of culture, developing features that are the hallmark of printed books to this day, and witnessing the growth of a viable book trade. And it was in the sixteenth century that many classics of the Jewish tradition were either printed for the first time or received the form by which they are known today.2
The Library of Congress holds 675 volumes printed either partly or entirely in Hebrew during the sixteenth century. Many, though not all, of these books came to the Library via Ephraim Deinard, the legendary bookseller and bibliophile whose collections, purchased through the generosity of Jacob H. Schiff in 1912 and 1914, form the nucleus of the Hebraic Section at the Library of Congress.3 After reaching the Library, most of these books were stripped of their original binding and then recovered in the red buckram that is the hallmark of the Hebraic Section today; the exceptions—all too few and far between—are noted in the Finding Aid. The title of each book, and the place and date of printing (when known), were then stamped on the red binding in gold.