Mi Mo

Mikraot Gedolot

The “Rabbinic Bible” or Tanach with multiple commentaries printed on the page alongside the text. Mikra (“scripture” or “verse”) refers in Hebrew to Kitvei Kodesh, writings that have sanctity, either as a whole (the way we use the terms Tanach or Bible) or in part (the way we use the terms pasuk or verse). Mikraot Gedolot, literally “the Great Scriptures,” is the name by which the multi-commentarial Rabbinic Bible has been known since its first printing.

Title page of the Bomberg Second Rabbinic Bible (1524-5)
Title page of the Bomberg Second Rabbinic Bible (1524-5).

Mikraot Gedolot appeared in two extremely important early editions, published by the prominent (Christian) printer Daniel Bomberg in Venice in the early 16th century. The Dutch Bomberg (1483–1549) received the required permission from the Pope in 1516 to print Hebrew books, a privilege granted to few; no Jewish printer would be permitted to create an edition of Tanach until the 20th century. (This perennially excellent edition is available today as the Koren Tanach, which retains the particularities of the Jewish scribal tradition and Masora.)

Bomberg, whose printing press also produced a singularly significant complete edition of the Talmud (1520-1523), chose an edition of the Hebrew Bible as one of his first ventures. The First Rabbinic Bible, edited by the Felix Pratensis, a Jewish convert to Christianity, appeared in 1516-1517. A much improved (though still error-ridden) Second Rabbinic Bible was published in 1524-1525 under the editorship of Yaakov ben Chaim Ibn Adoniyahu, also a Jew who converted to Christianity, though some time after he edited the Second Rabbinic Bible.

The Bomberg Rabbinic Bibles included the Masoretic text of Tanach (with vowelization and cantillation marks), Masoretic notes, Targum, and commentaries. Different commentators were selected for each book of Tanach, but Rashi and Ibn Ezra appear throughout.

See better images of the British Library’s copy of the Second Rabbinic Bible here.

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