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A rare survival of a printing device: a woodblock for the cross-cultural printing
of a Hebrew publication of the Song of Solomon

Hand-cut woodblock bearing the text "Safr Nishd al-nishad li-Süleyman ..." (Book of the Song of songs of Solomon) in naskh Arabic script.
[Probably Ottoman provinces, mid-18th century (ca. 1750)]. A single hand-cut woodblock (17 x 9 x 2.2 cm, with protrusions to the left and right making it wider - 11 cm - near the head to accommodate the wider 2nd line) intended for use as printing block, with 6 lines of text, together with an inked impression on 18th century paper (16.5 x 10.5 cm).
€ 18,000
Woodblock with the Arabic title "Book of the Song of songs of Solomon" followed by a reference to the Hebrew title "Shir hashirim" (Song of songs) transcribed in Arabic, probably produced in the Ottoman regions of the Levant for a rural printing office. A rare survival of an 18th-century printers woodblock from the Islamic world, and also an important witness to cross-cultural printing for minority audiences in the Ottoman world. We include an inked impression of the block on 18th-century paper paper, clearly not printed recently, because it does not show the worm holes that now appear in the block. The text reads: "Safr Nishd al-nishad li-Süleyman waighal ba-lAbraniyat Shir hashirim".
The inked impression of the woodblock is pasted to a piece cut out of a Croatian printed prayer book compiled by a Croatian Catholic in Bosnia, Rafo Barišiæ, Pasha duhovna (Spiritual pasture), on spirituality and Passover, first published at Rome in 1842.
Some small wormholes in the wood, post-dating the print; the upper surface (printing side) of the block stained black from ink used for printing. Printers woodcuts such as this are often discarded or recycled and rarely survive in such good condition as the present example. No relevant Arabic edition of the Song of songs in: Catalogue of Arabic printed books in the British Museum (cf. vol. 1, cols. 381-382: editions of 1869 and later); Google Books; KVK; Qatar Digital Library; WorldCat; for the Croatian prayer book: Knezoviæ Pavao, "Autorstvo Paše duhovne ", in: Nova prisutnost, 16 (2018), pp. 477-486 (with an English summary).
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Related Subjects:

Book history, education, learning & printing  >  Greek & Non-Western Types
Middle east & islamic world  >  Arabic Printing & Calligraphy | Turkey & Ottoman Empire
Religion & devotion  >  Books of hours, Missals & Prayerbooks