The Paratexts of Jacob Marcaria: Addressing the (Imagined) Reader in Mid-Sixteenth-Century Italy
History of Religion
History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
Reading and Language
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AbstractFor a few years in the middle of the sixteenth century (1557-1564), a Hebrew press was active in Riva del Garda (Riva di Trento) under the management of Jacob Marcaria, a physician. The business arrangements of the press seem complicated and difficult to reconstruct (having only the evidence of the printed editions): Marcaria was printer for most of the books and may be considered the publisher of some; for others, he was in partnership with Rabbi Joseph Ottolenghi of nearby Cremona. The activities of Marcaria and Ottolenghi were undertaken with the permission of the Prince-Bishop of Trent, Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo and some of the editions apparently enjoyed his patronage. Madruzzo, host of the renewed Council of Trent in the early 1560s, also patronized Marcaria by hiring him to do contract printing for the Council. Although Marcaria was only the printer for some of the works, he was the guiding force behind the press and apparently served as editor for almost all of the books, designing and drafting the title pages and writing prefaces for many of the works. The output of the press was eclectic--ranging from major halakhic texts to controversial philosophical works, and also including popular ethical works, and liturgical and other ritual works. Marcaria’s paratexts--mainly title pages and prefaces--offer us an opportunity to study the ways in which Hebrew books were marketed in the middle of the sixteenth century. Other than a work on the calendar (which may have been authored by Marcaria) and a commentary on the Passover Haggadah by Isaac Abarbanel, the press seems to have specialized in producing first or second editions of older works, written before the era of print. Much attention in the history of the early modern book has focused on the impact of print on the transmission and dissemination of new works/new texts. Here I will focus on Marcaria’s [attempted] mediation of the encounter between old texts and new readers by looking at his very personal addresses aimed at an imagined reader (literally addressed, in most cases, with the title “to the reader”). The prefaces are not long--usually about a paragraph. Here, I present three representative ones--from a halakhic text, a book of "customs," and a philosophical treatise--along with their title pages. I analyze Marcaria’s strategies and place Marcaria’s paratexts in the context of previous work done on the role of paratexts in the history of reading, particularly in early modern Europe. This presentation is for the following text(s): Abraham Klausner, Minhagim (1558) Levi ben Gershon (Gersonides) (1560) The Book of Rabbi Mordecai (1558) Click here to view the video.