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The First Book Printed in the Ottoman Empire is in Hebrew

Colophon of he Arba-ah Turim (Constantinople, 1493) in the British Library, reproduced from Adri K. Offenberg

Colophon of he Arba-ah Turim (Constantinople, 1493) in the British Library, reproduced from Adri K. Offenberg's paper.

After their explusion from Spain David and Samuel ibn Nahmias travelled to Constantinople as a result of Sultan Bayezid II's offer of refuge. There they established the first printing press in the Ottoman Empire. As Jews, the Nahmias brothers were allowed to practice the printing trade that Sultan Bayezid II had decreed forbidden to Muslims since 1484. The first book the Nahmias brothers printed was Jacob ben Asher's fourteenth century Arbaah Turim (Four Orders of the Code of Law) completed on 4 Tevet 5254 (13 December 1493). This was the first book printed in the Ottoman Empire, not only in Hebrew but in any language. Jacob ben Asher's work was the only book that the Nahmias brothers issued in Hebrew from Constantinople during the 15th century.

Previously the Nahmias brothers had attempted to set up a printing shop in Naples. The type they used in Constantinople is similar to Hebrew type used in Spain and Italy. The paper on which their edition of ben Asher was printed in Constantinople is of northern Italian origin.

Lehrstuhl für Türkische Sprache, Geschichte und Kultur, Universität Bamberg, The Beginnings of Printing in the Near and Middle East: Jews, Christians and Muslims (2001) 9. ISTC no. ij00000300.

Adri K. Offenberg, "The Printing History of the Constantinople Hebrew Incunable of 1493: A Mediterranean Voyage of Discovery",  The British Library Journal, 22, No 2 (Autumn 1996), 221-235. The specific mention of Southeast Europe & the Near East is on p 223..

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