The following description was prepared by William Gross:
A volume on legal documents, particularly relating to divorce and civil matters, by R. Samuel ben David Moses ha-Levi (c. 1625 – 1681). It presents, in 49 sections, the correct form of halachic documents, reflecting the positions of the author’s predecessors, elucidating the halachah in accordance with their positions. It remains a basic work on documents to the present day.
Title page with architectural frame showing two robed men at the sides, winged cherubim above, and two fish topped by the winged head of a cherub. Two vignettes at the bottom depict the punishment of Shechem for the rape of Dina (left), and the tribe of Levi killing the worshippers of the Golden Calf (right). Between the two illustrations is the book’s date, written in the chronogram “The Messiah ben David is coming” (427 = 1667), reflecting the widespread belief in Shabbetai Tzvi as the Messiah. This belief is further expressed in the acrostic spelling out the author’s name, which appears after the introduction.
Shabbetai Tzvi was a Sephardic Rabbi and kabbalist born in Smyrna, who declared himself the long-awaited Jewish Messiah in 1666. Many Jews enthusiastically embraced him, and began to prepare for the End of Days. When, in 1667, Shabbetai Tzvi converted to Islam rather than face martyrdom, the disappointment and shame of those who had believed in him was palpable.
Uri Fayvesh (Phoebus) b. Aaron Witmund ha-Levi opened his own print-shop in Amsterdam in 1658, having worked previously for Immanuel Benveniste. He would print about 100 titles during the years he was active in Amsterdam (1658-1689). Towards the end of this period Phoebus became embroiled in a now-famous controversy with the Athias press over the printing of a Yiddish edition of the Bible. The dispute brought both printers to financial ruin.
In 1689 Phoebus relocated to Poland, hoping to benefit from the smaller number of competitors and the closer proximity to the Jewish communities that comprised a major market for the Amsterdam Hebrew presses. He established a press in Zolkiew in 1691. His descendants continued to operate Hebrew printing-presses in Poland into the twentieth century.
Summary and Remarks
O | Ornamentation: | Architectural frame
O | Ornamentation: | Pediment-broken
O | Ornamentation: | Cherub-head
H | Heraldic composition | Supporters | Two Putti
F | Fish | Two fish
D | Dinah | Dinah,defiled | Simeon and Levi slaying Shechemites
M | Moses | Moses, Golden Calf | Idolaters Slain by the Levites (Ex. 32:27)
P | Printer's Mark | Uri Phoebus of Amsterdam, Printer's mark | Uri Phoebus of Amsterdam, Printer's mark (Full page filled with Levitic symbols) (Yaari, no. 69)
L | Levi, Emblem of | Angels pouring water on the hands of priests