Tuesday, 30 November 2010

[In lieblicher Bläue . . .]

Carta Azzurra / Carta Turchina
Hebrew printing on blue paper

Early in the C16 under the influence of the Italian master printer Aldus Manutius, a new 'secondary deluxe' medium [after the preferred vellum] was introduced into Venetian Hebrew printing by the Xtian publisher of Jewish texts, Daniel Bomberg of Antwerp. The new material, blue paper, a product of Renaissance fascination with the indigo dye, became a convention of Hebrew deluxe printing in the C16.
It is possible that the special status of blue in Jewish religious tradition - according to the Talmud, blue is the colour of the divine throne - led to the affinity for this colour in the Hebrew book world.

Cheap blue tinted paper was widely used by indigent printers in towns such as Dubno, Jozefow. Kpys, Korec, Ostrog, Wilno, Zhitomir…

Over the centuries papers of other colours, such as green, rose, grey, yellow, orange, were occasionally used for printing special copies of Hebrew books, and sometimes on large, wide margined sheets. In most cases the paper was dyed in the pulp, but in some cases it was painted after manufacture. In a very few instances a variety of coloured papers was used to print a single book. In a few other instances the text was printed in red ink on coloured paper…

In Eastern Europe in this century, posters and other ephemera, in large part Yiddish, were often printed on coloured paper stock.

Brad Sabin Hill
Hebrew Section
Oriental & India Office Collections, BL 1995

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