This text was prepared by William Gross:
A composition book comprised of sample letters by R. Samuel ben Elhanan Jacob Archivolti (c. 1515 – 1611), designed to teach through example the rules of correspondence. A student of R. Meir Katzenellenbogen (Maharam, 1473 – 1565), Archivolti served as a rabbi, av bet din, and rosh yeshivah in Padua. Among his students was R. Judah Aryeh (Leon) Modena. Prior to settling in Padua in 1568 Archivolti worked as a corrector for the Hebrew presses in Venice. He was deeply attached to the Hebrew language, as reflected by Ma’ayan Gannim and several of his other works.
Ma’ayan Gannim (“a fountain of gardens” Song of Songs 4:15) is divided into five chapters, each comprised of 10 letters. Various types of correspondence are represented: between a father and son, from an older to a younger man, with government officials, etc. Letters of a romantic, even sensual nature are also included, intermingling with those of a sacred nature, Reflecting contemporary mores and current issues, the letters contain information of historical and cultural value.
Title page with the three-crown device of the Bragadin press.
Fine woodcut illustrations of fountains and cupids appear at the chapters’ beginning. Each is framed by a biblical verse relating to water.
In 1550 Alvise Bragadin established a Hebrew press in Venice, thus ending a brief monopoly in Hebrew printing in Venice enjoyed by Guistiani (after the closing of the Bomberg press). This press continued as one of Venice’s leading Hebrew print-shops, issuing Hebrew titles in the 18th C under several generations of Bragadins (the last of whom was Alvise III). Throughout the years, the output of the Bragadini press was considerable, and covered the gamut of Hebrew works. The press was somewhat unusual, however, in that the Bragadins themselves did not always take an active role in their printing-house, leaving its operation to other printers, and lending their name to other presses.