Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Hebrew Sheet Printed in Tripoli, Libya by bookseller Yitzchak Cohen

Below are scans of a Piyut recited on Yom Kippur by the Jews of Tripoli. This sheet was published in Tripoli by the bookseller Yitzchak Cohen.

One of the many obstacles of running a publishing and bookselling business in a place that was not exactly the center of the world, was that no one really knew where you were. To help with this issue, Cohen made sure to state on the sheet that he is located in Tripoli, which is on the continent of Africa. He reiterated this 3 times on the sheet, apparently without much faith that potential customers would be able to place Tripoli on a map.


  1. Wonderful find! Although I suspect that it is not that he doubts his customers know where Tripoli is, but rather that there are several other Tripolis, most notably in Lebanon (and Greece; see Thus it is not uncommon to specify "African Tripoli," or "Tripoli of the West" (as he does here in the Judeo-Arabic, Tarabolos l-Gharb). A Google Books search for those terms should bring up some citations. I would interpret this as his confidence that his texts would have a wide circulation and he wanted to be as clear as possible to whom potential clientele should be directed.
    See also how Mordechai Cohen signed his name "miTripoli di Afriqa":מטריפולי+די+אפריקא%22&dq=%22מטריפולי+די+אפריקא%22

    1. Hi could have just as easily wrote Tripoli, Libya if his intent was to rule out the other Tripolis. Mentioning the continent does seem like an odd choice.