ACSGA Seminar on “Amsterdam Jewish Books and their non-Jewish environments during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century” held by Shlomo Berger.
Arriving in Amsterdam and establishing here Jewish communities, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews turned to publishing and printing of books which should have served Jews conducting a Jewish life in their new location of dwelling. Sephardim were the first ones to enter into the printing business, and Ashkenazim followed suit; Sephardim felt that it served an urgent need taking into account that their community members were ex-Christians who needed guidance regarding the old-new faith, Ashkenazim took over Sephardi practices and developed a book industry that served local and eventually international markets.
Indeed, Sephardi printers were the first one to produce book in Yiddish, the Ashkenazi vernacular, believing it constituted a profitable branch of business. Both branches of the Jewish book industry wished to be autonomous and keep the business within the Jewish fold. But economic conditions and living in a city which was a European center of book production drove the Jewish producers to forge fruitful relations with, for example, local non-Jewish printing offices, artisans, paper producers and dealers, financiers and political authorities.
The lecture will discuss the background of such connections and attempt to picture the framework of the local Jewish book business.
Shlomo Berger helds a Ph.D. in History (Hebrew University of Jerusalem 1987). He is teaching in the department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University of Amsterdam, research member at the Amsterdam Centre for the Study of the Golden Age, extra-ordinary professor of Yiddish, University of Amsterdam. Berger has published three books, and dozens of articles on Early Modern Ashkenazi cultural history and in particular on Yiddish book history. In February 2013 a new book will be published by Brill (Producing Redemption in Amsterdam: Early Modern Yiddish Books in Paratextual Perspective).