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Two early cases of publication by subscription in Holland and Germany: Jacob Abendana's Mikhlal Yophi (1661) and David Cohen de Lara's Keter Kehunna (1668)*

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Publication by subscription is a sales technique developed in England in the seventeenth century. It was probably not introduced to the German-speaking countries until after 1725. The first hitherto known instances in the Netherlands date from after 1680. The article describes the publication of two linguistic works by Sephardic Jews which are the earliest known examples of works published by subscription in Holland and Germany. The first of the works concerned is the Hebrew Mikhlal Yophi, a commentary on the Bible of which an edition prepared by Jacob Abendana appeared in Amsterdam in 1662. An exchange of letters between Abendana and Antonius Hulsius is indicative of the former's attempts at recruiting subscribers. Abendana's efforts concentrated on Leiden, where in about 1660 he, his brother Isaac and the rabbi David Cohen de Lara, formerly of Hamburg, were living as private Hebrew tutors and booksellers. Abendana used an approbation of his book by the Leiden professors Cocceius, Heidanus and Uchtmannus to support his request for permission to dedicate his work to the States General. This was a more conventional way of acquiring funds from the state. At the same time the dedication, the approbation and a letter from the Basle Hebraist Johan Buxtorf jun. were intended to smooth the book's path to the Christian reading public. A case is also presented for the publication by subscription of David Cohen de Lara's Keter Kehunna (Hamburg 1668). Cohen de Lara's initiative goes back to the example set by Abendana, who, in turn, probably borrowed the idea from the London Polyglot. Finally some observations are presented concerning the conspicuous popularity of this method of publishing with Sephardic Jews interested in language. A comparison with the events surrounding the appearance of the Dutch translation of Athanasius Kircher's Mundus subterraneus, subscriptions for which were opened in 1678, makes it probable that Abendana's work was one of the first ever to be published by subscription.


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