Thursday, October 06, 2005

Machzorim and Piracy

Some years ago, I bought a Rosh Hashanah machzor on eBay, German-size, nusach Polin (Eastern European), printed in Sulzbach in 1826. I've used it for years, enjoying the commentary, but not knowing much about it. This year, I obtained the Yom Kippur volume.

Also this year, Feldheim Publishers has put out a reprint of an 1815 German machzor, printed at Roedelheim at the press of Wolf Heidenheim, with the commentary and partial German translation prepared by Heidenheim, a noted grammarian as well as publisher. I started comparing by Sulzbach machzorim to the Heidenheim, and found that the commentary and translations are identical, and the page layout is similar.

Now, a real Roedelheim/Heidenheim machzor has a picture of R' Heidenheim's signature, and in later editions, a picture of his seal. My 1826 machzorim had no indication of the editor or commentator's names. The 1815 ones had the picture of Heidenheim's signature, and a couple of prefaces and haskamot, while mine had neither. Furthermore, the 1826 edition is not listed in the Bet Eked Sefarim, one of the major bibliographies of Jewish books before 1950.

It seems I have a knockoff Heidenheim machzor.

Furthermore, Heidenheim machzorim were pirated almost from the beginning. The 1815 edition (third) has a letter from Heidenheim decrying unauthorized reprints, and anathematizing his former assistant, Baruch Boschwitz, who had left him in 1807 and published his own knockoff of Heidenheim's machzorim. The Chatam Sofer intervened in that case and ruled in Heidenheim's favor, on the grounds that impinging on the editorial and creative effort of an author, is the same as poaching on another's fishing areas (Choshen Mishpat #79). The first edition had been printed around 1800.

Now, haskamot were originally provided to anathematize unauthorized reprinters. They were not exclusively the nihil obstat (proof of kosher content) that they have become today. They were the old equivalent of copyright (see, e.g. the Jewish Law site for articles on Jewish law and copyright). But in the absence of real enforceable penalties, they became useless, as my machzor shows.

Today we have numerous copyright infringements that go unenforced, notably the Rebecca Bennet Talmud in the 1960s. This was a small-format Talmud, with reduced images of the early 1860s Lemberg edition of the Talmud on one side, and reduced images of the Soncino English translation of the 1930s and 1940s on the other side.

In fact, the first full edition of the Talmud printed in North America, in 1919 by the Eagle-Wolofsky Press in Montreal, used Vilna page images, as most Talmuds do today, and is listed by Habermann in his bibliography of the Talmud as "unauthorized".

Does anyone know of recent material on Heidenheim and his literary and commercial activities? Preferably in Hebrew or English? The Jewish Encyclopedia refers me to some articles in a German journal in 1900 and 1901.