This text was prepared by William Gross:
This is a concise code of law, unique in that it is directed towards the wealthier strata of Jewish society. It contains at the back a large foldout sheet with printed tables illuminating parts of the text.
The parents of the author, R. Menahem b. Aaron ibn Zerah (c.1310-1385), were among the Jews expelled from France in 1306, settling in Estella, Navarre, where Menahem was born. In the massacre which took place in Estella in 5th and 6th of March of 1328, Menahem's parents and his four younger brothers were slain. Menahem himself was stricken to the ground, and lay all but dead from his wounds, when he was saved through the compassion of a knight, a friend of his father's. He then studied two years under Joshua ibn Shuaib, after which he went to Alcalá to join Joseph ibn al-'Aish, with whom he studied the Talmud and Tosafot. His chief teacher was Judah ben Asher who went through the whole of the Talmud with him, with the exception of the third and fourth orders. In 1361 Menahem succeeded Joseph ibn al'Aish as rabbi in Alcala, and held office for eight years, during which time he also taught the Talmud.
In consequence of the civil war which broke out in 1368, Menahem lost all his property, and he then went to Toledo, where Don Samuel Abravanel took him under his protection, and enabled him to continue his studies during the rest of his life. Menahem died at Toledo July, 1385.
In honor and for the benefit Abravanel, Menahem wrote Zedah la-Derek (Ferrara, 1554). This work occupies a peculiar position among codes, and is in a certain sense unique. As the author states in the introduction (ed. Sabbionetta, p. 166), it is intended mainly for rich Jews who associate with princes and who, on account of their high station and their intercourse with the non-Jewish world, are not over-rigorous in regard to Jewish regulations. For such a class of readers a law-codex must not be too voluminous, but must contain the most essential laws, especially those that the higher classes would be inclined to overstep.
Vincenzo Conti, printed in several locations, including, for a short time, Sabbioneta. At the end of 1566, at the invitation of Duke Vespasian Gonzaga, he left Cremona, where he had been printing Hebrew and Latin books for some ten years, and opened a press in Sabbioneta. Conti issued only a few books (principally liturgical works) from there, however, before the press closed and he returned to Cremona. After his return he resumed printing Latin books until 1569, but issued no additional Hebrew titles.
Conti took great pride in his Hebrew books, having new fonts cast, rather than acquiring worn letters from other presses (thus accounting for the clear and attractive look of his books) and employing skilled Jewish workers. He used cursive rabbinic type for the text of his earlier books, until the fonts were burned in 1559. Square letters were cast to replace them, thus distinguishing his earlier and later works.