Is there a reason for pages in sefarim being numbered using Arabic numerals (e.g. 1, 2, 3…) in comparison with the Hebrew numeration using letters?

What is the earliest source for Arabic numerals being used in Hebrew sefarim?

And could using Arabic numerals ever be considered 'going in their ways', i.e. something reprehensible?

(Perhaps related: systems of counting days/years in the non-Jewish calendar instead of the Jewish calendar are considered forbidden according to some)

  • Convention, convenience, Christian printers...? – Shmuel May 19 '14 at 19:56
  • Daniel Bomberg, one of the first printers of judaica and the first of sha"s was Christian. – Noach MiFrankfurt May 19 '14 at 20:47
  • Not sure about page numbers, but the first sefer I found that used Arabic numerals for the date of publication on the title page was printed in 1861. From that point on, writing the date in Arabic numerals becomes widespread, and appears in almost all printings. Source: This book – Shmuel May 19 '14 at 20:56
  • Sefarim published in translation use that language's numbering system. A Tehillim translated in Latin in 1521 by Bomberg uses Latin numerals. It's logical to assume, due to the typesetting process, that printers would use the available letters (Hebrew for Hebrew, Latin for Latin) to number their pages, as switching or adding new ones is more effort. I don't know why this changed in the mid-1800's. – Shmuel May 19 '14 at 21:04
  • Thanks for the comments so far. why the down vote? Should I be more specific about something? – bondonk May 19 '14 at 21:42

"Up to about 1515 only Hebrew letters were used, but Daniel Bomberg introduced Arabic figures as well. In rare cases the alphabet took the place of numbers (Kol Bo, Rimini, 1525, Rome, 1545). Pagination was introduced later than the signature. No incunabulum appears to have had it. The first to have had numbered folios, though not very consistently so, is Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, printed in Constantinople in 1509." ... "The Hebrew number appears on the upper left of the first page in Bomberg's works; other printers added Arabic figures."

Zilberberg, Gershon, and Jennifer Breger. "Printing, Hebrew." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 16. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 529-540. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 May 2014.

  • Note that this entire article can be found here - in case you want to add a hyperlinked reference. – Shimon bM May 20 '14 at 0:11
  • Link requires subscription access. (Which I have, but most might not.) – Shmuel May 20 '14 at 2:20
  • Really? Not for me, for some reason... I must be one of the lucky few :) – Shimon bM May 20 '14 at 5:11

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