Infofiles Index

Prenumeranten Lists (Pre-publication Subscription Lists) ¹

Hebrew Prenumeranten list from 1861. Image courtesy of Chaim Freedman. Click the image for a larger view.

Prenumeranten is a Yiddish term meaning “prior numbers.” It refers to people who ordered copies of a book before its publication. These presubscribers enjoyed the privilege of seeing their names in print in the list of prenumeranten included in the book. These lists are a particularly valuable genealogical source. The late Berel Kagan’s Sefer Haprenumeranten, known in English as Hebrew Subscription Lists (1975), is an index by town of about eight hundred books covering eight thousand towns. Two additional lists were prepared by Shlomo Katzav (Petah Tikvah, Israel, 1986, 1992).

Most of these books were of a religious nature, published from the late 18th century until the early 1940’s. Lists exist for most towns in Europe that had a Jewish community. Subscribers from small villages often were listed under the name of the nearest larger community. Some lists include communities outside Europe. Genealogists seeking prenumeranten lists will find them primarily in old religious Hebrew books. To locate them, libraries with major Judaica collections should be consulted.

Much genealogical information may be derived from prenumeranten lists. Since the names are grouped by town and because the books were published at various times, a cross section of these communities is visible at different times. The movements of families from place to place may be tracked. Unknown relatives may be discovered. Sometimes death dates can be interpolated by comparing lists. There are limitations to the usefulness of these lists and careful interpretation is essential.

Prenumeranten lists are valuable for rabbinical genealogical research as the rabbis of particular communities often occupied a prominent position in the lists. Since the lists appear in rabbinical compositions, the introductions and title pages usually include genealogical information about the author’s family, some of whom may be included among the prenumeranten.

Chaim Freedman
Petah Tikva, Israel


1. Excerpted from: Freedman, Chaim. Beit Rabbanan: Sources of Rabbinic Genealogy. Petah Tikva, Israel: self-published, 2001. Used with permission. (return)