Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


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The route of Jewish printeries

We invite you to join the route tracing Jewish printeries, which were very important places for Jewish communities. Because of their extraordinary care for books, including the most import one, the Torah, for centuries Jews have been called the People of the Book. Publishing books was even called "awodat ha–kodesh", "a sacred profession". Hebrew printing houses published a Hebrew Bible with commentaries, as well as sermons, ethical and Talmudic treaties, midrashes, Jewish legal codices, and prayer books. A significant percent of the published books was Cabbalistic and Hassidic literature [1].

The beginnings of Jewish publishing on the historical Polish territories dates back to the first half of the 16th century – the oldest printing workshops were founded in Kazimierz near Kraków (1534) and in Lublin (1544–1682). Thanks to beneficial administrative decisions, favourable bishop censorship, and magnates' conviction that founding a printery brought numerous benefits (for instance increased the economic standing of the city, enabled export–oriented production, contributed to educating the residents, increased income) in the 17th and 18th centuries there appeared dozens of new publishing houses: in Biała Cerkiew, Białorożce, Bogusław, Bracław, Dubno, Dubrowno, Korets, Międzyboż, Międzyrzec, Mińkowice, Ostroh, Połonne, Poryck, Radziwiłłów, Szkłów, Sławut, Sudyłków, Zasław, and other places. Despite all of this, until the 19th century their publishing could not compete with a rich selection of books imported for the needs of the Jewish population of Poland.

The 19th century brought a significant change to that. At that time a clear breakthrough in the number of Hebrew and Yiddish publications took place, especially in the Austrian and Russian partitions.

The route of Jewish printeries

The route includes 16 towns, where Hebrew publishing houses were present during certain periods: Lublin, Józefów Biłgorajski, Grodno, Kopyl, Berdyczów, Meżyrów, Połonne, Sławuta, Ostroh, Korets, Dubno, Zhovkva, Turka, and Oleksiniec. We suggest covering it in three separate branches:

1) "Polish-Belarusian" (630 kilometres): Lublin - Grodno (325 km) - Kopyl (265 km) - Słuck (40 km);

2) "Podolia" (909 km): Lublin - Józefów Biłgorajski (111 km) - Zhovkva (90 km) - Turka (171 km) - Oleksiniec (324 km) - Minkowice (117 km) - Meżyrów (96 km);

3) "Volhynia" (461 km): Poryck - Dubno (131 km) - Ostroh (80 km) - Sławuta (30 km) - Korets (55 km) - Połonne (110 km) - Berdyczów (55 km).

The route of the Jewish printeries starts in Lublin, which alongside Kraków was one of the main centres of printing in old Poland.


LublinDirect link for this paragraph

The beginnings of Hebrew printing in Lublin date back to the middle 16th century, when Lublin municipality was still relatively young and small in numbers. A royal privilege for starting a printery was issued in 1559 by king Sigismund II Augustus. The first Hebrew publishing house, at the time still resembling a printing workshop, was opened later on, near 1547 (several decades before the founding of the first Polish printery) by Icchak ben Chaim and Josef ben Jakar (respectively: a son and a son–in–law of a famous in Europe printer Chaim ben Dawid Szachor). It published the prayer book of Polish ritual, Szomrin la–boker. By 1554 two more titles had appeared: Jocrot and a siddur of Ashkenazi ritual. The latter prayer book is the only print where the name of Icchak ben Chaim appears as one of two printers. Soon after the publication of the siddur Icchak ben Chaim died.

The next owner of the publishing house, after the previous ones died, was Chaim ben Icchak Szachor. In 1559 the first treaty of the Lublin edition of Babylonian Talmud (the first edition of Talmud printed in Poland) was published. Printing of other treaties had lasted for over 18 years. The Babylonian Talmud, edited in Babylon in the early 6th century is larger and more comprehensive than the earlier Jerusalem Talmud. Since the end of 1558 until 1561 due to an epidemic the books were printed in Końskowola.

Between 1566–1572 the printery was managed by Eliezer ben Icchak who was supported by Kalonimos ben Mordechaj Jafe. Eliezer ben Icchak concluded his printing work in Lublin in 1573(13 titles appeared to his name during his tenure there) by publishing the last book to be released here, Pachad Icchak by Icchak ben Awraham Chajut, where he included a song pointing to the reasons for him leaving Lublin. In it he claims that he hadn't found the much desired peaceful work environment, and because of that he planned to leave the city after 13 years to "fulfill his heart's longings".

In 1572 Kalonimos bought a part of the printery from his business partner who was leaving for Constantinople and Safed. He managed it on his own until 1603, publishing 45 titles over the years. His successor, Cwi ben Awraham Kalonimos Jafe, greatly increased the book production. The Lublin publishing house suspended its activities for a year only during the Thirty Years' War.

Printing resumed in 1623. Cwi ben Awraham, aided by his son Josef ben Cwi Hirsz Kalmankes Jafe, had published 87 titles by the time the printery closed in 1628. The printer was accused of printing censored Talmudic texts, and the printery was closed by order of king Sigismund III Vasa. After Cwi ben Awraham's death in the same year, the Jesuit order attempted to claim his publishing house. King Sigismund III supported them with a document issued in 1631, insisting on transferring the printing machinery and resources to the monks.

The publishing house returned to Jewish hands in 1633 thanks to the confirmation of previous printing privileges by king Władysław IV. For the next thirteen years it was managed by Kalonios (II) Kalman Jafe assisted by his brother Josef. Their work was interrupted by a fire of 1646, and the destruction was completed by Khmelnytsky's incursion, wars with Sweden and Moscow, and the fire of 1655.

Printing Jewish books was resumed in 1665 by Szlomo Zalman Jafe ben Jaakow Kalmankes from Turobin, encouraged and supported by his father Jaakow ben Awraham Jafe. The printing house closed in 1685. It was driven to bankruptcy by an import of Jewish books from abroad, mostly from Amsterdam, Venice, and Prague. Since the reclamation by Jafes, over 180 Hebrew and Yiddish prints had been published, and all Lublin publishing houses in the 16th and 17th century published 240 titles total.

Printing traditions returned to Lublin in 1790 thanks to the privilege issued by king Stanisław August, but Hebrew publishing houses could not reach the same glory they had in the 16th century. For years no serious publishing initiative had been undertaken, and the Jewish printing and lithographic workshops being created in the 19th and 20th century supported themselves mostly out of printing and selling religious books (prayer books), reprints of school handbooks, and notebook production. They also printed announcements and occasional prints. An additional source of income was a bookstore or stationery store present near such printeries. In the 19th century Jakob Hirschenborn and Moses Scheidermesser founded a Hebrew printery in Lublin in 1875,  in 1894 Fedra and Setzer did too, and in the 1920s M. Schneidermesser followed in their footsteps. 

In Lublin there was also, founded in 1836, a bookstore of Stanisław Arct (Arzt), in 1862 taken over by his nephew Michał. The store during fifty years of functioning became one of the most important centres of Polish books. Arct in the 1850s took up a publishing enterprise, which soon was directed towards printing children's publications, as well as pedagogical and popular science literature. In 1887 the business was moved to Warsaw, where the publishing house achieved second place among Polish publishers of the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century.

Józefów BiłgorajskiDirect link for this paragraph

In the middle 18th century in Hamernia near Józefów there was a copper smelter, producing mostly for the purposes of the food sector, and a papermill. Near 1820 Szaja Waks, one of the papermill's leaseholders brought in specialists from the destroyed by tzar government printery in Sławut, and he started a printery in Józefów which used its own paper and quickly grew to be one of the most important polygraphic enterprises in Congress Poland. Hebrew books and official prints from there were exported to Poland, Russia, Moldavia, Wallachia, even to Istanbul. Destroyed by floods and fires, the printery and papermill were each time rebuilt anew and existed until the end of the 19th century. Since 1865 the printery had been managed by brothers Baruch and Szlomo Zecer, who in the end became owners of the other business, too. Meanwhile Mosze and Mendel Sznajdmesser from Józefów founded a printery in Lublin.

PoryckDirect link for this paragraph

The royal privilege for founding a printery in Poryck was given on 4 January 1786 to the town's owner, Feliks Czacki. The published books could not be contrary to the Catholic faith, the state, nor decency. Another printing house was established during that year by Szlomo ben Awraham from Lutsk, his father–in–law Awraham ben Icchak Ajzik from Korets, and Elimelech ben Jaakow from Lutsk. The business partners used the fact that in the same year Jan Antoni Krüger resigned from managing a printery in Korets. In their printing house as typesetters they employed Icchak ben Issachar Ber Segal from Korets, Issachar ben Jehude Lejb from Oleksiniec, and Nachman ben Icchak Ajzik from Sokal. Jechiel Michel ben Mosze Mordechaj from Oleksiniec, Meir ben Jaakow Kac, and Cwi Hirsz ben Icchak Kac from Dukla worked as pressmen. Awraham Szimszon ben Natan Nata was a proofreader.

In 1779, a year after printer Elimelech ben Jaakow's death, his widow, Chaja, set up a new partnership. Its members were: Chanoch Henich, a son–in–law of Israel ha–Lewi (a president of a rabbinic court), his teacher, Mordechaj ben Pinchas Jechiel from Koryck, and three other people. Their business employed Aaron Mordechaj ben Elijahu Menache, Tenfelsman from Zhokva, and Dow Ber ben Arje Chajim from Poryck as typesetters, and a pressman Meir ben Awraham

The printery was active until around 1794, and a new one was founded in 1799 by Chanina ben Petachia Jehuda Leib. Poryck printeries by the end of the 18th century had published 14 Hebrew titles.     

BerdyczówDirect link for this paragraph

The Berdyczów publishing house was founded in 1807 by Szmuel ben Issachar Ber. After his death, the duties were taken up by his son, Jaakow Funkelmann. He remained in Berdyczów until 1820, at which time he moved to Sudyłków. The business published over 30 books, including Hassidic, Kabbalist, Halakhic, and prayer books. Between 1815–1820 another publishing house was founded by Israel Bak, and it published 26 prints. At the time of World War I there were also other, smaller Hebrew printeries in Berdyczów. 

OstrohDirect link for this paragraph

Ostroh, a private town owned by Ostroh dukes of Volhynia is predominantly known as a Hassidic centre (one of Hassid movement founders was from Ostroh – Jaakow Josef), home to rabbis important to the spirituality of Polish Jews: Szlomo ben Jechiel Luria (Maharszal), Jeszaja ben Awraham Hurwica (Szelah), Szmuel Eliezer ben Jehuda Edels (Meharsz), Dawid ha–Lewi Segal (Tas), and the seat of a famous yeshiva. Meanwhile in town there were also four Hebrew publishing houses, which by the end of the 18th century had published 24 titles.

The first of those printeries was founded around 1792 by Awraham ben Icchak Ajzik from Korets. He employed Arje Lejb ben Jehuda, Mordechaj ben Jaakow, Jehuda Lejb ben Noach Szac as typesetters, Jochanan ben Szlomo and Jaakow ben Mordechaj as pressmen, and Icchak ben Joszua Heszel from Poryck as moulder and printer.

Awraham ben Icchak Ajzik's business partner was Aaron ben Jona, who in 1796 founded another Hebrew printery, which was to compete with not only the first of local ones, but also with Krϋger's printery in Nowy Dwór (to confuse buyers into thinking they purchased Krϋger's book he used a printing signet ring, a monogram resembling the one typical of the printer from Nowy Dwór). Very quickly, in 1795 or 1798, the third publishing house was founded. It belonged to Szmuel ben Issachar Ber Segal, the owner of Hebrew printeries in Korets, Szkłów, and Połonne. Segal improved his printing workshop, and to this end he imported some of the typographic resources from Krϋger's printery in Nowy Dwór. The last, fourth, publishing house was founded in 1800 by Elijahu ben Icchak and his business partners.

KoretsDirect link for this paragraph

The history of Korets Hebrew printeries spans 24 years, since 1776 until 1800. In 1776 after receiving permission from Józef Klemens Czartoryski an unknown Jewish printer came to town. Together with his associates, among others Mordechaj ben Jaakow and Szmuel ben Issachar Ber Segal, with the typographical equipment he brought with him he started a Hebrew publishing house. Sources state that they probably jointly published En ha–chaszmal of Jehuda ben Israel Ajbiszic (debatable print). Around 1798 the printery was taken over by the partnership of Szmuel and his father–in–law Cwi Hirsz ben Arje Leib Margalijot (known for his activities in Oleksiniec and Szkłów). Proofreaders were employed too: Issachar ber ben Menachem ha–Lewi (the father of Szmuel the printer), and Dow Ber ben Szlomo. By 1782 the partners had published among others: Zohar, Szem, Derech emuna and the first Hassidic book Toledot Jaakow Josef.

The next owner of this publishing house, until 1786, was Jan Antoni Krϋger, a Christian, and the owner of Hebrew printery in Nowy Dwór (in Mazovia). He published rabbinic and Kabbalist books (there were around 40 titles published total). After the migration of typographers (only the son of Cwi Hirsz, Chaijm Margalijot stayed) to Szkłów, where they founded their own printery, Krϋger took in some of the employees from the printery in Oleksiniec (among others, typesetters Mordechaj ben Zeew, Arje Leib ben Icchak, Cwi Hirsz ben Menachem Mendel, Aaron ben Szimon Zelig from Oleksiniec, Jehuda Leib ben Ichcak, and Mosze ben Icchak, pressmen Mordechaj ben Jaakow, Josef ben Szlomo, Dow Ber ben Aaron, Tuwia ben Israel, Meir ben Mosze, Menachem Manes ben Jaakow from Oleksiniec, and Jochanan ben ha–kadosz Szlomo). The four years of Krϋger running the printery were some of its best years. Another of his assets, beneficial for developing his printery, was a privilege granted in 1784, relieving him of the stamp tax for his prints, issued two years after filing in an application for it.

Between 1786–1792 (or 1794) the printing house was once again managed by Szmuel ben Isachar Segal, until Awraham ben Icchak Ajzik, previously working in a printery in Poryck, came to Korets. Awraham and Elijahu ben Jaakow ha–Lewi organised a new printery, which had published books for the next 25 years. In total, 93 titles of books published between 1776–1800 in Korets are known. Ch. B. Friedberg thinks, that some of the books with "Korets" mentioned as their publishing place are pseudoprints, in reality printed out in other towns of Volhynia.

PołonneDirect link for this paragraph

Printing traditions in Połonne date back to 1789. The town at the time was owned by Kalikst Piniński. The first Hebrew publishing house was founded by Szmuel ben Issachar Ber Segal. With typesetters: Arje Lejb ben Icchak, Meir ben Szlomo, Szimon ben Jechiel and pressmen: Jochanan ben Szlomo, Szimon ben Jechiel, Jochan and Josef ben Szlomo, he exclusively published Hassidic books (in Połonne, in the first half of the 18th century, lived rabbi Jaakow Josef Kohen, a student of Baal Szem Tow, and the author of the first Hassdic book Toldot Jaakow Josef).

In 1800 the printery started to be singlehandedly managed by Szmuel's business partner, Josef ben Cwi ha–Kohen from Połonne. Szmuel directed almost the entire production towards Korets, where since 1796 he had resumed printing work, presumably running both publishing houses at the same time, at least until 1792. Next, since 1793, Szmuel's business partner was Awraham Mosze ben Jehuda Lejb Halperin, and the printery's associates were Aaron ben Jechezkel Kac and Arje ben Mosze Sofer. Around 1795 or 1798 Szmuel moved the business to Ostroh.

The second Hebrew printery in Połonne was opened by Szneur ben Becalel Szor (it operated until 1799), and the third, in the late 1800, by Josef ben Cwi ha–Kohen from Płonne. Hebrew publishing houses by the end of the 18th century had published a total of 30 titles of Hebrew books, and by the end of the 19h century other active printeries had published around 90 prints (Hassidic, Kabbalist, Halakhic writings, also in Yiddish versions).

KopylDirect link for this paragraph

The Hebrew publishing house in Kopyl, founded in 1796, operated very briefly. It published just two Hebrew books, a prayer book in Polish ritual, Machzor, and Chiduszej Meharsza al Perusz Raszi. The owners of Kopyl printery were Cwi Hirsz ben Szimon Kac from Zhokva and Josef Joska ben Chaim.

DubnoDirect link for this paragraph

The founder of the first Hebrew publishing house in Dubno was Jehonatan Berhami from Wilamowice in Silesia, initially a proofreader from the printery of Jan Antoni Krϋgera of Nowy Sącz on Mazovia and then his agent, selling Krϋgera's books in Warsaw. Jehonatan's business partner and printer proper was Michał Piotrowski, whose name sometimes was included (near the owner's name) on the first page of books published in Dubno. On the first pages of their books, the partners, in thanks for the permit for the printery's operation, also included a monogram of general Michał Lubomirski, the town's owner.

By the end of the 18th century they had published 23 titles. The employed typesetters were Natan Fajtl ben Jaakow, a brother of printer Jehonan, Binjamin ben Cwi Hirsz from Wiśniowiec [?], Josef Chajim ben Jechonatan (also working as a printer), and Josef ben Szlomo from Ostroh.

In 1804 in Dubno the second publishing house was founded, managed by Aaron ben Jon, a Jewish printer from Ostroh and Josef ben Jehuda Leib from Dubno.

GrodnoDirect link for this paragraph

The beginnings of the Grodno pritnery, which by the end of the 18th century had published around 75 Hebrew titles, date back to 1775. At that time Antoni Tyzenhaus, a court treasurer of Lithuania, by inspiration from king Stanisław August Poniatowski acted towards the foundation of a Hebrew publishing house, working under names: Drukarnia [printery of] J. K. Mci, Nadwornej J. K. Mci, or Skarbowa [His Royal Highness, Court of His Royal Highness, or Treasury]. Since 25 October 1785 the preparations for starting the printery, and then for the printing itself, were conducted by moulder Menachem nachum ben Jechezkel from Sokal with sons Simcha Zimel and Jechezkel ben Arje Leib. Menachem produced, among others, the new types. Later on he was also joined by typesetters: Icchak, a son of a famous printer Issachar ber ben Mosze Jehuda of Segal from Korets, and Aaron Szimon Zelig from Zhokva. In 1778 the first book published by them was Lechem seorim. The next ones were produced in cooperation with proofreaders Jechezkel ben Nachum, Arje Leib ben Jechezkel, Mosze ben Awraham Awli, and Binjamin ben Gedalia Kac from Grodno.

In 1788 the publishing house, still remaining Drukarnia J. Mci (Typis S.R.M.R.Pol.M.D.Lit.) was rented out or transferred to Baruch ben Josef Masa's (Romma) management. By 1792, when Baruch acquired a greater independence despite not having full control over the printery, it had published 18 Hebrew prints. After 1792 his name was pressed on the covers, except for the Yiddish book Ojwkes Rochel (published in 1795 by Baruch's son, Menachem Man, a known Vilnius printer from the 19th century, who probably aided his father in his work), and a volume Hagada szel pesach (prepared in 1791 by Binjamin Beszka, a probable business partner of Baruch).

In 1798 a Vilnius bishop Jan Nepomucen Kossakowski ordered the publishing house, by then transformed into a diocese–owned one, moved to Vilnius. There it remained in the care of canon Jozafat Mirski, and still printed Hebrew books, although Baruch ben Josef Masa's (Romma) name was no longer put in them.

MeżyrówDirect link for this paragraph

The publishing house in Meżyrów was created thanks to the permit issued by the town's owner, a Polesia judge Jędrzej Orłowski. During nine years of its functioning it published, in Hebrew type, 21 volumes. It was founded in 1791 by three partners: Issachar Ber ben Mosze Jehuda (son–in–law of Mosze Jom Tow from Korets), Jechiel Michel ben Dawid Kac, and Awraham ben Josef. In the created business employed were: proofreader Icchak Ajzik ben Aaron from Kołomyja (his employment significantly influenced the printery's position), printers Jehuda Leib ben Icchak ha–Kohen from Korets, Jechezkel ben Szewach and Dow Ber ben Jehuda Leib, pressmen Dow Ber ben Aaron from Korets, Szaul ben Mordechaj Kac, and the work supervisor Awraham Mordechaj ben–Szewach. The books were created on a typographic equipment brought from Grodno. For the duration of renovation works, the presses and types were placed in a house of local rabbi. His son Issachar Berisz participated in printing, as did typesetter Szamarja ben Menachem Mendel, pressmen Szlomo ben Jehuda, and Mosze Zeew Wolf ben Jaakow.

The second Meżyrów publishing house was founded around 1794. Jechezkel, working there alone, after a year moved his equipment do Minkowce.

MinkowceDirect link for this paragraph

The first printery in Minkowce, as in Meżyrów, was founded in 1796 by three partners: Josef ben Icchak, Jechezkel ben Szewach, and Mosze ben Josef (ben Icchak). In the second year of its functioning printer Josef died, and his partners started working separately. Around 1798 Mosze's publishing house was taken over – due to her father's death – by his daughter Estera. A year later she partnered up with Jechezkel ben Szewach. Together they employed: Mosze Jehuda Leib ben Israel, Dow Ber ben Jehuda Leib from Meżyrów and Jochanan ben Szlomo from Korets.

In 1798 Naftali Szmuel from Berdyczów printed in Meżyrów a book Maase ha–[Szem], but it is unknown, whether he was connected to the already existing printing workshop, or it was an attempt at starting a new one.

OleksiniecDirect link for this paragraph

The printery in Oleksiniec was created in 1760, by permission of the town's owner, Józef Klemens Czartoryski. Since its inception, the printery cooperated with the one in Zhokva. After printing the first volume Brit melach by Jom Tow Lipman Heler, until 1766 there are no noted Hebrew prints from this town, therefore it is likely that the publishing house's activities were suspended.

The first book printed after the break, in 1767, was Tikunej szabat. By 1777 twelve more had been published. During that time the publishing house was managed by Cwi Hirsz ben Arje Lejb Margalijot, supported by Israel Szor–Margalijot, the author of Mincha chadasza.

Between 1769–1772 there was another break in the publishing house's activity, caused by the uprising of Ukrainian peasants and haidamakas against the gentry and Jews associated with them. Cwi Hersz Margalijot resumed the printery's activity by publishing Zmir aricim we–charwot curim by Arje Jehuda Lejb ben Mordechaj. The printery was active until 1778. In total, there are 18 known titles published by it.

TurkaDirect link for this paragraph

The initiative of opening a publishing house in Turka came from Jan Antoni Kalinowski, the town's owner and Galician cześnik [cup–bearer]. Kalinowski did not wish to compete with the printery in the nearby Zhokva, but planned to publish prayer books, which were usually imported from abroad. In 1752 he received a privilege from August III, allowing him to found a Hebrew printery on his property, and then he found several Jews who knew the printing trade. With them he went to Germany to buy typographic equipment. Trade negotiations were finalised in Dyhrenfurt (the previous ones, conducted in Frankfurt, were unsuccessful). The owner of local printery, Estera, sold them the necessary typographic resources.

In the Turka publishing house Arje Leib Mosze Segal Hurwic was a typesetter, while the printers were Josef Jozfa ben Szalom from Zhokva, Dow Ber ben Menachem Mendel from Turka, and Awraham ben Mosze from Turka. In 1757 the only volume printed by Jan Antoni Kalinowski, Machzor, was published. The owner died shortly after, and after his death the typographical equipment was sold to two employees of the printery.

The second publishing house was opened in 1763, and printed exclusively Talmudic books. Its owners, Jehoszua Heszel ben Cwi Hirsz and Szlomo ben ha–Kadosz Meir, brought the printing equipment from Germany, from Solzbach or Fürtch. With the help of typesetters Arje Leib Hurwic and Naftali Hirc ben Baruch from Zhokva, and printer Aleksander Sender ben Icchak from Zhokva they printed 10 Hebrew books. The printery was closed in 1770.

ZhovkvaDirect link for this paragraph

Zhovkva was the biggest centre of Hebrew printing and trade with Hebrew books in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland – by the end of the 18th century 558 titles had been published here. In the two final decades of the 17th century there was a distinct lack of Hebrew printeries in Poland, therefore the Jewish community of Zhovkva imported the publications they needed (predominantly ones required for study and prayer books) sometimes even from Italy and Netherlands. Created (by privilege issued by John III Sobieski on 1 November 1690) in 1692 or 1693, the publishing house in Zhovkva replaced the printeries in Kraków and Lublin which fell in the second half of the 17th century.

The Zhovkva printery was started by a printer from Masterdam, Uri Fajwusz ben Aaron ha–Lewi, who traded with Jewish books in Poland. His descendants, belonging to two families of Madfels and Letteris, ran Zhovkva printery until 1828. Uri hired his partners from Amsterdam to work in Zhovkva: a typesetter Jesef Wehlem ben Szlomo (in Zhovkva he worked as a printer until 1696), and a pressman Icchak Zelig ben Jehuda from Budin, and his son. Their proofreader was Mosze ben Daniel from Rohatyn. The first printery had John III Sobieski's permission to publish Yiddish translations of Tanach and for free distribution of Bible for 10 years (a similar permission was issued by Vaad of Four Lands). 

The founder of Zhovkva publishing house died in 1705. He was replaced by his son, Chaim Dawid, and since 1724 the printery was managed by the "printer brothers" – two sons of Chaim, Aaron and Gerszon (until they came of age, the owner's responsibility were taken up by Szlomo Wehle). Between 1747–1749 he remained under the care in Chaim Dawid (son of Aaron ben Chaim Dawid) and his uncle Gerosz, who renovated the typographic material and significantly improved the quality of printed books. For a short time after 1749 two publishing houses had been operating in Zhovkva, the second one was founded by a daughter of printer Aaron, Jehudit, who was a wife of Dawid ben Menachem Man (his name is present on the prints). Around 1750 a printing partnership was  probably formed out of them. At that time the names of three printers started to be pressed onto the books, sometimes replaced by a phrase "grandchildren of Uri Fajbusz ben Aaron ha–Lewi". The first publication certifying this merger of two publishing houses was Chochmat Szlomo by Szlomo ben Jechiel Luria. This chapter in history of Zhovkva printeries was closed by the plague of 1770, due to which Gerszon ben Dawid presumably died.

After a year–long break, Dawid ben Menachem Man and his brother–in–law Aaron ha–Lewi Segal, with assistance from uncle Zeew Wolf ben Gerszon Segal Letteris, resumed the activity. The partnership had been publishing books until 1778, at which time it fell apart due to internal conflicts. For the next four years each partner had his own publishing house. In 1782 Dawid died, and the printery was taken over by his wife Jehudit. In the same year Austrian authorities (after the partition of Poland) decided to move the publishing houses to Lviv, 40 km away. There they could stay under control of the officials (books imported from abroad also were subject to meticulous control). Independently of this ruling, printeries were subject to a tax of 20 red zlotys a year from each publishing house.

Publishing Hebrew books resumed in Zhokva in the 1790s. Initially, in 1792 (an official permission was issued as late as 3 August 1793) Awraham Jehuda Lejb ben Meir Majerhofer with an experienced printer from Lviv, Mordechaj ben Chaim ben uri Rubinsztajn from Zhovkva opened a new printery (in 1797 after five years of partnership they parted ways, each starting an individual enterprise – Majerhofer ran a printery until his death in 1811, Rubinsztajn and his son Uri Cwi opened his own). Then, in 1794 Gerszon Letteris, son of Zeew Wolf moved some of Lviv printeries of his father to Zhovkva. His printery was active in Zhovkva until 1828.  

SławutaDirect link for this paragraph

The Sławuta Hebrew publishing house was started in 1791 by permission of the town's owner duke Eustachy Sanguszko. It was founded by a rabbi from Korets, Mosze Spiro ben Pinchas. In 1798 or 1799 his partners became Dow Ber ben Pesach and Jaakow ben Mosze (presumably the printer's son). The printery employed Awraham Cwi ben Eliezer Kac, Gerszon ben Mosze, Jehuda Cwi ben Jaakow and Jofes Jehuda ben Awraham as typesetters, and Eliezer ben Cwi Hirsz, Jehuda Lejb ben Binjamin and Szlomo Elijahu ben Cwi Hirsz as pressmen.

It functioned until 1836, and by the end of the 18th century 21 titles in Hebrew type had been published. Yohanan Petrowsky informs that Szapiros used 17 machines in their printery, and types of total weight of 11.200 kilograms [2]. 

prepared by Agnieszka Karczewska 



  • K. Pilarczyk, Drukowana książka hebrajska a religia. Vademecum bibliologiczne, Kraków 2012;
  • K. Pilarczyk, Leksykon drukarzy ksiąg hebrajskich w Polsce (XVI-XVIII wiek), Kraków 2004;
  • M. Kwiatkowska, Rola Żydów w rozwoju polskiego rynku książki pod panowaniem rosyjskim (1815-1914). Geografia oficyn, [in:] Rola Żydów w rozwoju gospodarczym ziem polskich, edited by. J. Skodlarski, A. Pieczewski, Łódź 2014, pp. 119-131;
  • Y. Petrowsky-Stehrn, Sztetl. Rozkwit i upadek żydowskich miasteczek na Kresach Wschodnich, translated by J. Gilewicz, Kraków 2014, p. 287.

[1] Y. Petrowsky-Stehrn, Sztetl. Rozkwit i upadek żydowskich miasteczek na Kresach Wschodnich, translated by J. Gilewicz, Kraków 2014, p. 287.

[2] Y. Petrowsky-Shtern, dz. cyt., p. 249.