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[Page 45]

The Niehofer Printer of Hebrew Books[1]

by Emanuel Ringelblum and Johann Anthon Krieger

Translated by Pamela Russ

 

now045.jpg
Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, of blessed memory

 

One of the most distinguished places in the history of Jewish books in Poland in the 18th century, without a doubt, is taken by the remarkable, active, enterprising owner of the Niehofer (Nowy Dwor) printing house, Johann Anthon Krieger.

His reputation is not only because he established the first printing company in the area of Warsaw, or because he developed a wealth of activities as a publisher, but also because he was influential in the Polish financial spheres and convinced them to address the needs of Jewish printing in Poland and to protect the still fragile country’s production against the competition of foreign printing businesses.

The Niehofer printing company is actually a Warsaw printing concern, because the privilege of the printing was on Warsaw ground, as long as the printing company existed. Also, Niehof was situated close to Warsaw.

This printing company has an interesting early history which is closely connected to the remarkable, enterprising personality of Leizer Yitzchok of Krotoczyn.

We are familiar with only a few details of Leizer Yitzchok's past. First, we know that Leizer Yitzchok had a house in Krotoczyn that burned down before 1775. He rebuilt the house and in the year 1785 he owed 3,592 gilden for the house to the owner of Krotoczyn, Potocki.

Leizer was close to the royal family. In a memorandum of the year 1775, he writes: “The declarations of the ministers, and even the king himself supported me.” In another place he writes that for about ten years he was the royal minting contractor of Greater Poland. During the time of the sejm (Polish parliament), that is in the years 1773-1775, he overpowered the sejm with all kinds of projects of his, about the paper stamps, stamps on general and Jewish calendars, on Jewish books, and so on.

In the 1790s, Leizer was given a new honor – he becomes the sandek (man who holds the baby during a bris) of Lowicz. But he lives in Niehof and from time to time he comes down to Warsaw, actually, to Praga.

Leizer, who writes of himself that he …

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… thought of the project of paper stamps, stamps for seforim and cards, and thought that because of all his projects he would become the lessee of the seforim stamp. His money partner, Leibke from Dubno, however, decided that he alone – without Leizer – would take on this leasing on his own. When Leizer saw that he had lost his partner who had used his good idea for his own benefit, Leizer went to the finance commission with one of his lengthy memorandums. “He groans, pleads, and whimpers,” asking the commission not to remove him from this lease, and says that “since he is being supported by the declarations of the ministers and even from their shining leader (the king), he was notified about their resolution that soon he would be given the privilege of a printing company.”

From this not-so-clear memorandum, we see that as early as the year 1775, Leizer made serious efforts to receive a privilege for a Jewish printing house in Warsaw. It is not understood about the division of the declarations of the ministers or of the ambassadors of foreign kingdoms.

Nothing came of this project, because Leizer did not receive the lease for the book stamp.

In the year 1776, Leizer and his son-in-law Yoine ben Yakov received the privilege of building a printing house for Jewish books in Galendzinow (part of Praga). Why the privilege fell onto Galendzinow is not difficult to understand. At that time, Jews were not permitted to live in Warsaw, and certainly they could not even own land or houses; secondly, Galendzinow was privately owned by the king.

Leizer put out a special notice and distributed it at all the markets saying that he was looking for partners, but he had no success. The reason was not money related, but it was something else. The Jewish masses were upset with Leizer for two reasons: first because he came up with the idea of the new law for book taxes, and second because he wanted to take over the lease for the book stamp in order to be able to skin the Jewish masses. Leizer said just this of himself. This is cited from his memorandum, without a date: “The Jews in general are rebelling against this very project.” It's no wonder that Leizer's public notices remained as public notices in the desert!

Since we are talking about the early history of the Warsaw printing of Jewish books, it should also be mentioned that a certain Detoux [probably Dufour], likely one of the many foreigners who sought their fortunes in Poland, approached the king at that time requesting permission to open a Jewish printing house – probably in Warsaw. The former school principal Mosinski added these colorful words to that memorandum: “Detoux [probably Dufour] is always looking for a means to better himself.”

Until now, we were writing about the early history of Jewish printing in Niehof (Nowy Dwor), and now we are moving to the actual establishing of the printing house itself. It was the year 1780, following the privilege that the “refined” Warsaw printer Dufour had received from the king.

The privilege of the year 1780 is a complement to Dufour's privilege of 1775. The king allows him to print not only books in Eastern languages, but also those in Hebrew writing, and after that to sell them for the next thirty years. Printing Hebrew books – the king states in his privilege – will have its use in that monies will not have to be sent to foreign countries for these books.

Meanwhile, the other printing companies are prohibited from printing Hebrew books. And the privilege also denied, so that as soon as Dufour's printing will put out a sizeable number of books, it will become forbidden to import books from foreign countries and sell them. Those who will …

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… disobey this will be punished with confiscations and a fine of 2,000 ducats.

The fact that a non-Jew was printing Hebrew books resulted in the anti-Semitic publication “Gazeta Warsawska.” Three years later, the paper found it necessary to fire Dufour. Fighting against the project of the “Historical Political Memories Page” that Dufour issued, about forced military service for the Jews, the paper writes: “This Paris-Warsaw General (that means Dufour), knows well the Jewish “city council” because he had them all under his command for a certain amount of time, receiving the privilege a few years ago for the exclusive rights for printing Jewish books – as we all knew and as we announced in the presses at that time.”

In about four months' time, not having any money to put into the printing, Dufour relinquished his rights to Krieger. He set up the printing house again and supplied it with all its needs so that it was strong enough to meet the needs of all Polish Jews.

It is clear that Dufour, the court consul for the Polish king, the director of the printing house in the cadet school, and the owner of a well-known printing house in Warsaw on Altstadt #58, was here not anything more than a name. It was easier for Dufour to be granted a privilege for a printing house than for the cloth merchant Krieger. How could it be, then, when submitting a request for a Jewish printing house, did Dufour not know that he did not have the capital for such an undertaking?

It most certainly can be that once again we are dealing with Leizer, that Krotoczyn piece of work. It is very possible that the perpetual project manager was also the mastermind behind this venture.

An announcement in Leizer's memorandum of the year 1972 arouses a suspicion in me. Here he writes clearly: “I established the printing house in Niehof.” Since Leizer had no money, one has to understand the words of this context, that the project of establishing a Jewish printing house in Warsaw, in which he had no good fortune with the Jews, was moved near Warsaw with Krieger's material help – to Niehof (Nowy Dwor).

After Leizer established the printing house, for about eleven years he was still connected to it, either as a manager or as a partner. We understand this from his words in the above mentioned memorandum: “During these few years, I watched that my ideas (underscored by me, E.R.) and my work for the republic, demonstrated by the Niehofer printing house, was made profitable under Mr. Krieger because, since he ran the printing company for a few decades (this is an error – the Niehof printing house first existed in 1780. So, it can't be a few decades as Leizer writes) he completely fooled the treasury and cheated them of several thousand gildens a year…” His memorandum always ends with the cheated partner Leizer's plea that the commission grant him a concession to establish a new printing company for which he already has prepared workers – namely, his son.

The commission denied Leizer's request on his memorandum.

Both the attached positions and his signature: Leizer Yitzchok the Lowiczer Sandek from Niehof, demonstrated that the whole plan of the printing house in Niehof, and the use of Dufour's name, and so on, was the doing of the tireless project manager Leizer from Krotoczyn. Who really knows whether Krieger's diligent work led the energetic Leizer later on. Who knows if the idea of buying the Korecz printing house, of printing the Talmud, and more and more, did not arise in Leizer's fantasies![2]

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The inexhaustible Leizer Yitzchok even in later times turned over worlds and went around with plans, one more fantastic than the next. Some of the documents from the times of the Kosciuszko uprising show that Leizer Yitzchok had a sharp mind. He was able to make use of those good moments and use them to his advantage.

June 17, 1794, Leizer received a patent from the highest revolutionary government and from the national main council (Najwyzsza Rada Narodowa) to print Hebrew calendars and newspapers. As soon as he had the patent, the new – or better yet – the old problem began, the shortage of money. For that he goes to the city president Zagrzsewski to ask for a special letter for the individual city circles about helping him deal with his debts (because in the times of the uprising a moratorium was declared on debts). It is not known whether Leizer received such permission from the president, but it is a fact that Leizer did actually go see the president again.

In his second request of the city president he asked for consent to lease the cemetery in Praga, which formerly was leased to the known Shmuel Zabytkow. At this time, we know of an interesting detail – that the project of a Jewish cemetery originated with Leizer and no one else. Shmuel Zabytkow had taken the project away from him.

If we're already discussing the old informer Leizer, it should be mentioned here that Leizer asked the city president to free the children's teacher from military service in Berek's regiment. Zagrzsewski responded humorously but negatively: “In the Jewish Book of Prophets, it is written that this great teacher must kill the leader's enemy. So, because of that let him go to the military.”

Leizer, who belonged to the type of informers who were close to the royalty and those elements, who were present in each royal order and in each country, was willing to sell the entire Jewish community for a pot of lentils. So, in the first request, and also in the second request, he tells the city president that he has a secret issue to discuss with him. In his second request, he writes openly that the state could make a profit of thousands of gilden. This was probably one of the taxation projects from which this tireless project manager, the professional informer Leizer, had become wealthy.

After that, as we learned of Leizer's behind-the-scenes role, we move to Krieger. First we have to figure out why he …

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… opened this printing house in Niehof and not in Warsaw itself. The reason is not difficult to figure out: As we mentioned earlier, Jews were not allowed to settle in Warsaw, they could not own any houses there, and so on, yet Krieger still had to have proofreaders, typesetters, etc., who would have had housing difficulties in Warsaw.

Not a small issue was also the fact that Niehof was then going through a stage of ongoing industrialization. The owner of Niehof, Prince Stanislaw Ponjatowski, worked diligently to develop his settlement. He set up a cloth factory, a warehouse for building water boats, and in the end, in 1782, he received a privilege for the village to be declared a city. So, it's no wonder that Krieger chose Niehof for his new printing company.

Eight months after receiving the privilege, Krieger presents himself to the financial commission (finance minister) with a memorandum and retells the entire story of his printing company. He tells them everything that we have already read in the Polish “Warsaw Newspaper” – that his printing house has the exclusive right to print Jewish books (seforim) and that “as soon as his printing house will be able to provide the necessary seforim to the Jews that live in the country, no one should import any seforim from outside the country, under the penalty of confiscation and 2,000 red gilden.”

It's not hard to figure out why Krieger wanted to take the lease of the book stamp into his own hands. Krieger had a whole group of helpers around him, and he well knew all the ins and outs of how to fool the commission and not stamp the seforim. Because of that, he was certain that he would be able to earn more from it than he did the year before.

On the other hand, the lease for the Jewish stamp gave him the full supervision and control over the Jewish seforim market. And that's what Krieger really strove for, and maybe also – behind him, the hidden Leizer from Kroczyn who had the initial idea of this lease in the year 1775.

The commission responded to Krieger's memorandum with a rejection. Exactly as before, the commission maintained its control over the book stamp.

Krieger, as an enterprising person with lots of enthusiasm, wanted through the lease of this book stamp to take over the entire seforim production of the country into his own hands. If one method didn't work, he would try another method. He bought the Korecz printing house, which had existed from the year 1776, in Wolyn from the partners Reb Zvi Hersh bar Reb Aryeh Leyb and his son-in-law Shmuel bar Yisocher ber Segal.

This time, when the Korecz printing house employed seven workers in the year 1786 was under Krieger's ownership (1781-1787). Says A. Tober, the author of a detailed discourse of the Korecz printing company, that this was the glory period of Korecz. “The majority of the books from the Korecz printing house (a total of 20), were printed during this period because Mr. Krieger, as he did in Niehof, managed with a generous hand.”

Krieger's largest undertaking is known from another grand project with which he went to the finance commission in the year 1782. Krieger had the idea of printing the entire Talmud. In order to accomplish such a large task, it was necessary to get “the approbation of the oldest and first rabbis on the country.” Therefore, he is asking the finance commission to give all the rabbis and community leaders a notice that would put the onus on them to buy the Talmud from him and that not one of them should disturb him in this work, but on the contrary, they should help him in this great undertaking that would have to cost him from ten to twenty thousand red gilden.

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If the commission grants him the request, then the monies will remain in the country and not leave.

Publishing the Talmud always had its tremendous difficulties, and always – especially in Poland, required huge efforts. In total, until the nineteenth century, the Talmud was published in Poland four times: the first time in Lublin in 1559; the second time in Krakow in 1602; the third time also in Krakow in the years 1612-1620; and the fourth time in Lublin in the years 1617-1628. Each time, the religious leaders of the times would issue their approbations and protect the printers from foreign competition. In the approbation of the Lublin publication of 1559, it states explicitly that [Hebrew translation]: “We are issuing a strict proclamation with the undersigned signatures that in all the yeshivos in the three above-mentioned cities they should learn tractate after tractate …” That means that they couldn't use any other publication except for the one published in Lublin. In the yeshivos, they had to learn the tractates in the order in which they were printed in Lublin. The publisher, secure in that they would use only his publications in the Lublin yeshivos, no longer feared any foreign competition.

In the 18th century, the Jewish printing center was located in Poland and was in such a sorry state that not one publisher even dreamed of such a grandiose undertaking as publishing the Talmud. On the opposite page, we find the signatures of the famous Polish rabbis and of the leaders of the committee of the foreign publishers of the Talmud.

The foreign publishers are chasing after the approbations of the Polish rabbis because that would guarantee them a monopoly on sales in the country of Poland for the period of time that is indicated in the agreement.

How far the foreign publishers took over the Polish seforim market one can see in the 18th century famous argument between Sulzbach and Amsterdam about whether Sulzbach had the right to publish the Talmud at that time when Amsterdam was already in the midst of printing it and had already received consent for this from the Polish committee and then had a monopoly on the Polish market. That both sides – the Amsterdam publisher Proffs and the Sulzbacher Zalman Frankel - presented themselves to the Polish committee so that they could receive the final decision on this disagreement, indicates clearly the significance of the Polish seforim market (particularly in relation to the Talmud) for foreign publishers.

Krieger's project of printing the Talmud after a 150-year break was to make Poland independent of foreign publishers. From the memorandum, it is difficult to know what type of help Krieger requested from the commission, since what does it mean that “the commission should put out a general statement that the rabbis and community leaders were obligated to buy HIS Talmud”?

One has to assume that he meant the pre-subscription to the Talmud. In any case, that's how the finance commission responded to the memorandum. In the general statement to the superintendents of the country developers, the commission showed that because of Krieger's earnings the monies for the seforim remained in the country. The commission asked of its officers that they should “with the gentlest means, influence their communities that they should immediately subscribe to the Talmud without which no Jewish family could be,” and it is impossible to publish such an important publication without a subscription.

From Krieger's standpoint, he guarantees that the price will not be any higher than in any foreign country, and maybe it would be even lower. Once again the commission asks its officers to support Krieger's project “and to warm up and excite the communities” for the subscription, particularly since Krieger is promising to do everything well, correctly, and to use clear, stamped books.

The plan to publish the Talmud did not come about. Why – is hard to understand. It might be that because of their long tradition, skill, and mass production …

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… the foreign printing companies were better able to contract services than Krieger could.

It could also be that the Jews did not yet have the trust for the new publishing house and they didn't want to subscribe to the Talmud. Maybe Krieger did not have enough money to publish the Talmud and had hopes that were too high for the subscriptions. After the subscriptions did not appear, he had to renege on his interesting project because of lack of funds.

Either this way or that, Krieger published the Talmud at that time only in parts.

The ever busy Krieger did not rest and in the time from giving in his memorandum about the Talmud and receiving an answer, that is from the 18th of September until the 31st of July, in a new memorandum dated October 28, he submitted new projects and new requests.

He is bemoaning the fact that he is earning very little for his seforim, and in order to increase his earnings he asks the commission to set him up with better services than the foreigners. That means freeing him from the book stamp. As a result, in his stores at the borders he will sell many seforim not only inside the country but outside as well.

Krieger knows well the principle that you cannot just cut off a tax while there is not yet a new source of income to replace that tax. Therefore, he proposes to the commission to establish a compulsory calendar for married men, and he promises the commission that this will earn ten times as much as the seforim stamp for which the Jews are going through terrible abuse. Understandably, for that Anthon Krieger again has a suggestion: that seforim sales should become monopolized and concentrated. The monopoly should, of course, go to the speaker himself, Krieger. He should have the principal sales, and all the seforim should be stationed with him. First, all the Jews – the merchants – should buy the seforim, but not all of them should have the right to deal with seforim. Every seforim salesman should receive from the government a concession and give an appropriate guarantee. These salesmen should also be obligated to buy from him, the monopolist, a designated number of seforim.

In Krieger's egocentric projects, there was a kernel of truth. Seforim sales really needed some regulating but not the bureaucracy that Krieger stipulated for it. Krieger's realized projects would have strongly affected seforim sales, maybe even ended them entirely. These projects would certainly have created chaos.

Although the government did not accept Krieger's projects, he was not deterred from presenting new ones. In 1788, once again he submitted a memorandum, one long as the exile. He claims that the officers are not following the orders of the finance commission and are letting through unstamped books. “How can I,” he writes, “in such a situation have a market for my seforim?”

Since both he and the commission were interested in following the law, he proposes to the commission that they give him supervision over the seforim stamp so that he would have the right to examine each step and letter of the way and search for books without stamps. In one word – to choke off his competition. Krieger is repeating his initial project that he presented in the beginning of his publishing career, with the difference that what at that time was called the lease of the book stamp, was now called the supervision over the stamp.

He doesn't want any compensation for his bother with the examinations, but only wants that the commission free his smaller seforim from the payment for the stamp, particularly if the payment is not proportional to the price of the book.

In the next section, Krieger correctly thinks that the commission should raise the price of the stamp payment for foreign published seforim by a half a gilden or a whole gilden, depending on the size. In general, he correctly shows that the Polish …

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seforim have a market demand only in Lithuania; Prussia and Austria are completely closed to the Polish seforim merchants. The foreign book merchants also have a wide market demand in foreign countries and so it is relevant for them to pay as those in the local countries.

The final project could maybe have been accepted, but again he was ego-centered: Why should this law not apply to all the rest of the Jewish printers in Poland? Why should only Krieger profit from the concession of seforim published within the country?

The commission responded in detail to the lengthy memorandum: For anything related to the facts of selling non-stamped books, the commission will evaluate all the facts brought forth and will punish those who are guilty. The commission does not agree for him to have supervision over the stamp since the officers are sworn in and therefore the supervision will remain with them. About whether to remove the stamp from the smaller seforim, this cannot be done without the Sejm (Polish parliament) since it was the Sejm that instituted this law initially. The commission also cannot raise the payment for foreign published seforim. The commission has a good suggestion for Krieger: He should sell more cheaply than the foreign merchants, or for the same price as they do, and the demand for seforim will increase. One word -- not external bureaucratic means, only the healthy sales principle of decreasing prices of merchandise has to be the lifeline for Krieger's sales activities.

But Krieger does not tire of pouring his memorandums onto the commission. In the year 1792, he again asks to free up his small seforim from the stamp payment and once again he receives a negative response.

In the year 1791, there is a change in Krieger's situation. Who earlier – which we discussed in a different place – was the righteous man and who would stand up against those who complained of other seforim merchants who trespassed the law, in the year 1791 was himself accused by various people of these actions such as selling thousands of unstamped seforim, or connecting several seforim together and putting on his own stamp, and so on.

This change in Krieger's behavior one can explain in that seeing none of his memorandums were accepted, he went in crooked ways, along with the others. And maybe Leizer of Kroczyn is right, that Krieger always fooled the treasury, but in the last years he was reported from all sides and then his deceits were all revealed that resulted in thousands of seforim.

But let us go from the domain of the memorandums to the realities. And here we are even more amazed than by reading Krieger's bold, farfetched projects that are …

 

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Sefer (religious book) published by Krieger in Niehof (Nowy Dwor) with Johan Anton Krieger's monographed stamp under the privilege of the Publishing for Jewish Books

 

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… an expression of Krieger's life dream: to manage the Jewish seforim market in Poland. Our amazement for Krieger, the cloth merchant, is even greater when we approach the world of numbers. Right off, it can boldly be said that Krieger was actually not far from his life ideal. The seforim production in Poland truthfully was mostly in his hands. Krieger was the most important factor in the production of Jewish books in Poland.

The Niehofer (Nowy Dwor) Seforim Production Number of Stamped Books

Year In the Niehofer
Customs Office
In the Warsaw
National
Customs Office
Total
1781 - 781 781
1782 - 1,729 1,729
1783 423 1,557 1,980
1784 - 1,892 1,892
1785 505 3,821 4,326
1786 866 2,743 3,609
1787 2,126 2,619 4,754
1788 4,754 626 5,380
1789 5,247 3,076 8,323
1790 4,699 241 4,940
1791 3,444 175 3,619
1792 9,693 - 9,693
1793 4,788 - 4,788
1794 759 - 759
1795 785 - 785
Total: 38,089 19,260 57,369

 

From this table we see that between the years 1783-1795 the Niehof printing business stamped 38,089 in the Niehofer customs office. Before the year 1783 there was certainly no office because it was only in 1782 that Niehof received the founding privilege of a city. From the first day that the printing house was established, Krieger stamped his books in the Warsaw National Customs Office. What he did before stamping some of his books in Niehof and some in Warsaw, I don't know. Probably, this must be connected to the direction in which the books went. In any case, it was determined that these were not the same books.

The total of Krieger's publishing activities is impressive: about 58,000 seforim were printed in about fifteen years in his presses. If we add on the 4,341 seforim and calendars that he did not stamp, for which he was taken to court, about 1,000 seforim that they found not stamped in the year 1792 – then we have 62,690 seforim.

Leizer from Kroczyn, who was close to the work, writes off Krieger's cheating to a few tens of thousands of gilden. If we accept that at least one third of the seforim that Krieger – to whom people came with greater trust and attention than to other book merchants – sold without stamps, then it would appear that Krieger's seforim production would be at least 100,000. That means, an average of 6,600 were published per year.

From Table 1, we see that the rate of growth for the seforim production was initially a slow one. In the first year, the founding year, the production was at 781 seforim. In the years 1782, 1783, and 1784, the production doubled. And in the year 1785, there was a sudden growth of more than one hundred percent. The reason is quite simple: The document that the finance commission put out in the year 1785 lessened the import opportunities of foreign seforim, although a growth could have taken place just from the local production. Beginning in the year 1787, the seforim production grows again, and reaches its highest growth point in the year 1792, with about 10,000 seforim. This steady growth from the year 1787 onwards is again a result of the new orders from the finance commission that lessened even further …

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… the foreign import and thus caused the growth of their own production. The drop in the years 1794-1795 is a result of the uprising under the leadership of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, which made the entire business life came to a halt, particularly in the area of Warsaw where the greatest slaughters took place. The third partitioning of Poland and the transferring of a large part of the province of Mazowie (with Niehof) into Prussian hands, caused another shakeup of economic life.

It seems that most of the work was done in Praga, near Warsaw. Beginning in the year 1784 until 1793, we always find groups of Jews from Niehof (Nowy Dwor) in Praga. The reason for their coming here they tell the military jurisdiction is that they get stipend tickets for doing all kinds of business with Krieger. Others come to Praga with Niehofer seforim in order to sell them.

It's not difficult to understand why the Niehofer Jewish book merchants stop off in Praga and not in Warsaw. Praga always had better relations with Jews than did Warsaw. In Praga, the landowners had the main say. These were the owners of the courts where the Jews lived and brought them nice profits from rent. Praga was always a place of refuge for the Warsaw Jews. Praga would often resist the government orders to chase out the Jews from there.

Business with the seforim from the Niehofer printing house slowed down sometimes in the crown countries and sometimes in Lithuania. It seems that in Niehof itself many Jews made a living from being book merchants. In stamp registers, there were scores of Jews who stamped tens and sometimes hundreds or even thousands of seforim at the same time.

Krieger, who worked with four printing presses, had an entire staff around him, primarily of Jews who worked as typesetters, printers, and most importantly as promoters for his seforim in the crown countries and in Lithuania. Berek Herskowicz, in his memorandum to the finance commission, writes that over 100 people were working for Krieger spreading his seforim across Lithuania. It seems that this number is not an exaggeration. In these stamp registries we find other than these, many Jews from the crown countries who are stamping in the Niehof office the freshly purchased seforim. The large majority were done by the Niehofer Jews with the most prominent book salesman Boruch (Berek) Herskowicz at the head.

In general, until 1782, Niehof was a village, where there were at most a few leasers – and thanks to the printing house, Niehof became a Jewish settlement. First, there were typesetters, printers, and book salesmen. In the stamp registries I counted seventeen book salesmen in Niehof. Other than that, in the registry of the Niehof customs office there were 24 Jews and no specific place of origin was listed for them. The writer probably felt that you don't have to mention the place of origin for the Niehof Jews. In total, other than the three typesetters and two printers there were 41 people employed either permanently or part time.

Other than Jews, Krieger also employed some non-Jews in his printing house. Over several months in the year 1786, Herr Lawrence in Niehof stamped 373 seforim, and Herr Waseziuk, the “broker of the Niehof printing house,” stamped over various months in the years 1791-1793 a total of 675 seforim.

Krieger's greatest promoter for his seforim, the above mentioned Jew Boruch (Berek) Herskowicz, within about five years 1790-1794, stamped 7,766 seforim in the Niehofer printing house. These are:

Year seforim
1790 481
1792 5,522
1793 1,434
1794 329
Total: 7,766

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The second place is taken by the proofreader Yoine ben Yitzchok, who within about two years, stamped 1,508 seforim. It is not known whether he stamped for the printing house or whether he just did business with them.

The third promoter was Boruch ben Yitzchok Iczkowicz, also in Niehof. In one year alone, 1788, he stamped 1,491 seforim.

Smaller book salesmen were Gershon ben Chaim with 1,186 seforim, Lev'ke ben Moishe with 705 seforim, Yenkel ben Hersh with 229 seforim, and a whole list of others who stamped scores of books and even hundreds at a time. Among these people should also be mentioned the bookbinder Dovid, who stamped a total of 175 seforim.

Krieger also sold books at the marketplaces – such as in the market in Lencze, where they found more than 3,000 unstamped seforim and calendars; in Lublin, where he stamped 109 seforim in the year 1790; but scores of merchants come to Niehof from various cantons in Poland, primarily from Mazowie in order to buy seforim on the spot from Krieger. These are Jews from Gombyn, Neustadt, Wengrow, Viadislow, and so on.

Larger transports of more than 100 seforim were taken out of Niehof by Iser ben Hersh from Lanawiecz at 431 seforim, Leyb ben Yitzchok from Kalki at 300 seforim, Levik ben Yakov from Lise at 200 seforim, Avrohom ben Volf from Bilgorei at 232 seforim, Yoine Zelkowicz from Sidlow at 228 seforim, Levek ben Moishe from Wengrow at 221 seforim, Hershke Rabinowicz form Zhukow at 159 seforim, Volf from Gombyn at 142 seforim, Pesach from Blendew at 143 seforim, Moishe Berkowicz fom Pincew at 124 seforim, and Hershke ben Avrohom from Bojberik at 104 seforim, and so on.

It seems, however, that the most important place of business was Lithuania where other than the one in Sklow, no other printing house existed. Around this place of business he had a difficult struggle with the Galician printing company in Zhulkew which had its traditions from the 17th century.

The cited memorandum from 1788 begins with these words:

“Although the commission put out a document (referring to the document of the year 1787), that the Jews coming from Galicia should not take any unstamped books to Lithuania, the Krasnostow writer let pass thirty wagonloads of unstamped seforim.”

The position that Lithuania held in Krieger's production can be seen from two facts. In the year 1785 Krieger sent 2,408 seforim by wagon with the Zhulkkow merchant Levik ben Yisroel, with whom he probably did business. That same year, in the national customs office, Krieger stamped 4,326 seforim. The former 2,408 seforim were not stamped, though in Lithuania there was no law yet regarding book stamps.

Comparing these two numbers, we see that a large part of Krieger's production was designated for Lithuania.

More distinct, the following incident will illustrate the explanation for Niehof exporting to Lithuania: In the year 1792, the largest agent for the Niehof seforim, Boruch Herskowicz, stamped 4,649 seforim that he took to Vilna. The journey was very difficult, especially since then in the land the so called “Targowize Confederation” was rumbling and there were always unrest and struggles. But in Vilna they didn't want to acknowledge the stamps of the crown on Jewish books, because in “foreign countries (probably from Zhulkow) a lot of books had already been taken there.” Boruch asks the commission to pay for his losses that resulted from Lithuania not recognizing the stamps, and he guarantees that the 100 people who earn their livelihood from doing business with Lithuania “will praise in all the land the compassion and good-heartedness that the finance commission had for the people … and will until the end of time pray to God for the Mother-Fatherland.”


  1. From the book “Chapters of History from the Former Jewish Life in Poland” Return
  2. This is not the end of Leizer's lively activities. In the year 1793, he once again tried to get the privilege for a Jewish printing house. But since Krieger had forewarnings about this, the …. … martial jurisdiction ordered that they examine the privilege of the Jewish printing house that Dufour had received and was later taken over by Krieger.
    The tireless Leizer, just after his failure in 1793, did not drop his idea of a Jewish printing company. At the time of the outbreak of Kosciuszko's uprising, Leizer surfaces again. Several times, he steps forward as the lobbyist for the Jewish population, sometimes with strange or even comical claims. For instance, he presents himself to the revolutionary powers asking that they not draft married men because “if they die in war their wives would not be able to remarry…” The Warsaw president Zagrzewski replied jokingly, “They can divorce, or they don't need to die!”
    Those unsettled times of the uprising Leizer used to renew his older-newer projects with regards to his Jewish printing company. Even more, Leizer was dreaming of a Jewish newspaper. (A Jewish newspaper is also a first-time project!) The government considered his requests and about two months after the outbreak of the uprising, they gave him permission to print calendars and newspapers.
    I figure that the ease with which Krieger received his permits was because what Leizer had wanted in his projected newspapers was to encourage the Jewish community to take active part in the uprising. This thinking is close to the truth, and connected to the objective of the revolutionary government to win over to the revolution the various peoples, particularly the Jews, and furthermore that appeals from the government went out in Russian, German, and so on.
    The fact that Leizer received a patent to print newspapers is probably connected to the fact that it was the time of the Kosciuszko uprising when they tried very hard to win over the Jewish population – this appears in the printed speech of Dr. Polonus of Vilna (see P. Cohen “A Jewish Voice in the Uprising in 1794 in Vilna,” Vilna 1933, separate printing in the YIVO leaflets 1932-33).Return

 

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