In my yeshiva there is a library that has many very old seforim. While exploring the library I came across a volume of the Mishneh Torah which seems to be from 1574. I opened it and was surprised to see that on one of the introductory pages there was an image of a naked woman. on the border of the image were the words "ויתאו המלך יפיך". The woman was wearing a crown and there was a 7-headed creature at the woman's feet. I wanted to know if there is some precedent for this kind of thing and is this something which is appropriate to be in a sefer.

Opening page with publishing information: Old-looking title page of Mishneh Torah, in Hebrew, published in Venice in 5334

Image of the woman.

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    daniel, very interesting question! Is your intent to ask about the justification for the inclusion of this image in this volume, in particular, as indicated by your title and careful description? Is it to ask about general precedent for and rulings about this type of image, as indicated by your last line, which described what you want to know? Or is it both? I'd appreciate if you'd edit to clarify. – Isaac Moses Mar 19 '15 at 17:54
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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, daniel. And nice name! :) – Daniel Mar 19 '15 at 18:10
  • It's a well-known issue and can be found in some other books. See for instance these posts. – Shalom Mar 19 '15 at 18:36
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/4946 – msh210 Mar 19 '15 at 23:11
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    If the image is inappropriate, shouldn't it be inappropriate to link to it on this site? – Loewian Apr 7 '15 at 4:10

This illustration appeared on a number of texts from the period: it was the printers' mark of the Bragadini brothers, who for a time (and together with Bomberg) held a virtual monopoly on the publication of Jewish books in Venice. As to whether or not you consider it halakhically sound, bear in mind that (like Bomberg) they weren't Jewish.

That same illustration appears also on a chumash published in Venice, 1591. For that picture, see A.M. Haberman, Title Pages of Hebrew Books (Museum of Printing Art: Safed, 1969), 41.

For more information about the Bragadini printing press, see Raphael Posner and Israel Ta-Shema (eds.), The Hebrew Book: An Historical Survey (Keter Publishing House: Jerusalem, 1975), 98-100.

  • Even if it was printed by a non-Jew, if it were something that was inappropriate to be in a sefer, wouldn't the Jews of that time removed the illustration or censor it? Was this just something that was just considered appropriate to be in sefarim? – daniel Mar 20 '15 at 19:31
  • @daniel You don't boycott the only printing press around. Bad policy. – Double AA Mar 25 '15 at 18:55
  • I didn't say boycott it. I said if the felt the image was inappropriate I would think they would cover it up. – daniel Mar 29 '15 at 20:57

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