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An inscription or device placed at the end of books, generally with the intention of showing the title, the writer's or the printer's name, the date, and the place of printing. Originally the certificate of the illuminator, it was used by the early printers to attest that the work had been done by a reputable man and in a reputable manner. Early prints attempted only to reproduce faithfully the manuscripts. As these at times had neither titlepage nor colophon, some of the earliest prints are wanting in both. This is true of such early Hebrew prints as the editio princeps of Maimonides' "Mishneh Torah" and Jacob b. Asher's "Ṭurim" (Soncino, c. 1490). In the "Diḳduḳ" of Elijah Levita (Isny, 1542) a poem takes the place of the usual colophon. In other works the colophon is extremely short, containing simply the word ("It is ended"); or , as in Naḥmanides' "Perush ha-Torah" (before 1480); or ( ("Finished and ended! Praise be to the Lord of the world!"), as at the end of the editio princeps of the Hebrew version of Avicenna's "Canon" (Naples, 1491).

Substitutes for, or Supplements to, Title-Page.

In the course of time colophons grew in length, practically taking the place of the modern title-page. But even when the Hebrew title-page grew in size and completeness the colophon was still used, and either duplicated or supplemented the information given in the title-page. The colophons were used to extol the merits of the book as well as the excellence of its typography. Characteristic of the Hebrew colophons is the religious character imparted to them by an expression of thanks to God that the work had been happily completed, or a prayer that those who had assisted might be spared to do similar work for many years to come. The hope of the restoration of Palestine, and of the rebuilding of the Temple, often finds expression also. In the Soncino (1485) edition of the "'Iḳḳarim" Isaiah ii. 3 is curiously changed into "From Zion goes forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Soncino," eulogistic of the printer's profession. These colophons, which often mention the "printer" ( or ), the "superintendent of the printing office" (), the "typesetter" (, or ), give us valuable information which can not otherwise be obtained. The colophon to Ḳimḥi's commentary on the Psalms (1477) states that 300 copies of the book were printed. The word is first used for "print" in the colophon of the Ferrara (1477) edition of Gersonides on Job. Steinschneider states that the oldest book containing such a notice is the "Leshon Limmudim" (Constantinople, 1542); but the Constantinople Alfasi (1509) contains one also.

Additions to Colophons.

The Constantinople prints are noted for their long colophons. Those in the early Venice prints are shorter, probably because most of the printers were Christians. Many of the early Italian prints, however, do contain lengthy colophons. Thus the "Maḥzor" of Castel-Maggiore (1486) contains, after the usual ending, "Ended and finished. Praise be to the Lord of the world," a very long account of the book itself, stating where the printing was commenced and where it was finished, with verses interspersed. This is followed by an invocation. The "Seder Tefillot" (Mantua, 1558) has a long colophon giving the date and place, and the name of the ruler ("Our Lord, Duke William Gonzago") of the country in which the city was situated, the names of all those who took part in the work, and ends with "For the sake of His mercy may He make us worthy to produce very many books and to exalt the Law. Amen." The date was often given in a Chronogram. The first edition of the "Yosippon" contains a long colophon, in which the editor, Abraham Conti, gives an account of himself; this is followed by the real epilogue of the work, and this in turn by a distich giving his name and the date, the initial letters of the last line being the numerical equivalent of the printer's name. Where a work was printed in several volumes, each volume is apt to have a colophon of its own. Thus in the Bologna "Maḥzor" (1540)the colophon at the end of the first volume is in verse, commencing "Finished is the first part; Praise be to the Lord of the world"; it is then followed by the wish that the printer may be enabled to commence the second volume. Volume two contains the main colophon, with the date and an expression of thanks to God that the printer has been able to finish the work.

Historical Notes in Colophons.

At times the printer uses the colophon to implore the pardon of the reader for any mistakes which may have crept into the text, as in the Bologna (1538) edition of the "Sefer ha-Ḥasidim," or in the colophon attached by Meïr b. Jacob Parenẓ to "Kaftor wa-Feraḥ" (Venice, 1546). The value of the Hebrew colophon is enhanced at times by the addition of historical notes. The Fano (1506) edition of the "Cuzari" contains an account of the Yaḥya family of Lisbon. Simon Ashenburg's "Debeḳ Ṭob" (Venice, 1588) has in the colophon a long note by the corrector, in which an account is given of the author's journey to Jerusalem. In Elijah b. Ḥayyim's "Imre Shefer" (Frankfort, 1713) Judah Löb b. Joseph tells us that he did not put his name on the title-page because he was daily waiting to receive a privilege from the emperor to print the Talmud. The Constantinople (1562) edition of the "Emunot" contains a long note by the editor, Solomon Ya'beẓ, about the author, and the translation of his work from the Arabic. Colophons were also at times used to call special attention to some one person who had assisted in the work. Thus, the Amsterdam edition (1711) of the "Seder 'Olam" contains, after a very simple formula, and on a separate page, a eulogistic notice of R. Hirsch of Szebrszescyn for the assistance which he had given to the printers.

Hebrew colophons were occasionally written in meter, as were those in some of the early Latin prints of Franz Rinner, the Speyers of Venice, and Ulric Hahn of Rome. Usually the verses are merely complimentary to the author. These colophons at times attain a surprising length. In the Rimini edition (1525) of Rashi's Pentateuch commentary, Moses Soncino takes one whole page to explain how he came to reprint the work. Solomon Alḳabiẓ's "Shoresh Yishai" (Constantinople, 1561) contains on a separate page a series of verses by Samuel Shullam in praise of the commentary. Some of these additions to the colophon are headed by a title, as ("Last word of the printer"), attached to the Amsterdam (1765) edition of Jos. b. David's "Mebin Ḥidot." In the Amsterdam (1651) edition of Manasseh b. Israel's "Nishmat Ḥayyim," after the real colophon containing the date of printing and the printer's name, Jacob Sasportas has added five pages of corrections and a long account of how he came in contact with Manasseh, and headed by the title ("Apology of the corrector"). A remarkable exaggeration of the colophon may be seen in the Karaite Pentateuch (Constantinople, 1833), which contains not only notes on the correctors and poems in honor of the work, but also an account of the men who contributed money to make the printing possible. Such notes are not unusual in Karaite books.

Colophon and Printer's Mark on the Last Page of "Tefillot Vulgar" (Mantua, 1561).(In the Columbia University Library, New York.)Compound Colophons.

At times several colophons are to be found; for instance, in Menaḥem Ẓiyyuni's cabalistic commentary to the Pentateuch (Cremona, 1560). The principal colophon, giving the date and place, is found on page 104. This is followed by two and a half pages of verse, and these in turn by a short colophon (compare Isa. xl. 29). Dei Rossi's "Me'or 'Enayim" (Mantua, 1574) contains on page 184 the words "Stampato in Mantova con licenza dei superiori"; then follow several pages of additions, with a colophon; an index, with the note "Et questo con la detta licenza"; and a (critique), followed by the words "Con la detta licenza."

Colophon of Abraham Conat on the Last Page of Levi ben Gershon's Commentary on the Bible (Mantua, Before 1480).(In the Columbia University Library, New York.)Copyright.

Colophons are almost in variably in Hebrew, though occasionally, especially in Italy, some Latin or Italian words are added; thus in the Venice edition (1582) of "Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," after the words "It is finished," are found the words "In Venetia apresso Gio. de Garra. Con licentia de Superiori." Eliezer Ashkenazi's "Yosef Leḳaḥ" (Cremona, 1576) has the addition "In Cremona. Appresso Christoforo Draconi 1576. Con licenza de Superiori." The Venice (1625) edition of the "Sefer ha-Yashar" has as colophon an Italian permit, given by the ecclesiastical authorities, dated 1615, and countersigned by Georgio Domini (1625), secretary of the "Magistr.Ecclest. contra la Biastema." Such colophons are somewhat rare. Still more rare was the custom of adding, after the expression "Finished and ended," a warning against any editor reprinting the book within a specified time. Thus in the "Sefer ha-Miḳḳaḥ u-Mimkar" of Hai Gaon, edited by Moses Mintz (Venice, 1602), such a prohibition, covering a period of ten years, is printed in the colophon. To this the editor adds a note in regard to the translation of the work from the Arabic, and a long colophon giving the dates of the commencement and the conclusion of the work, to which is attached the Aramaic formula ("Blessed be the Merciful One, who has helped us from the beginning to the end"). A similar copyright privilege is found in the colophon to Ibn Baruk's commentary to Ecclesiastes (Venice, 1598); though where such copyrights are published they were generally found following the title-page, and were known technically as "haskamot" (see Approbation).

Side by side with these long colophons shorter ones were in use. In the Augsburg edition of the "Arba' Ṭurim" (1540) we have simply the names of the three publishers, Ḥayyim bar David, Joseph bar Yaḳar, and Isaac bar Ḥayyim, in large letters. These names, however, are preceded by a long poem by Joseph bar Yaḳar, addressed to Jacob b. Baruch. Such small colophons became more general as the title-page was enlarged. They usually read: , "Finished and complete. Praise be to the Lord, Creator of the World" (very often abbreviated to ), and were followed by the names of the printers; or , as in Heidenheim's "Mishpeṭe ha-Ṭe'amim" (Rödelheim, 1808). Such abbreviated formulas appear quite early. Albo's "Iḳḳarim" (Soncino, 1485) has the letters ; it is signed by . The benediction is sometimes omitted in the short colophon, the date being retained. Abraham Bibago's "Derek Emunah" (Constantinople, 1521) has simply . The colophon was still further shortened into either the simple (or its Aramaic equivalent ; or ), or (compare II Sam. x. 12); or both combined, as in the "Pisḳe Ḥallah" of Rashba' (Constantinople, 1516).


In Hebrew books the colophon was usually printed in the same type as that used in the body of the work, or even in smaller rabbinical type. Only occasionally were larger characters used, to bring prominently before the reader the names of the printers; e.g., in the Augsburg "Ṭurim" mentioned above, and in Abraham Ẓahalon's "Yesha' Elohim" (Venice, 1595), which bears in large letters, covering an entire page, the abbreviations (= Isa. xl. 29 + Gen. xlix. 18). Occasionally the printer's mark was added after the colophon, though already given on the title-page. Such marks are found at the end of the "Arba Ṭurim" (Ixar, 1485), of Baḥya's "Kad ha-Ḳemaḥ" (Constantinople, 1515), of the Constantinople edition (1514) of "Pirḳe R. Eliezer," and of Cresca's "Or Adonai" (Ferrara, 1556), printed by Abraham Usque.

The eccentric arrangement of the type, in the form of funnel, diamond, wine-cup, wedge, or pyramid, as found in early Latin prints, is only occasionally met with in Hebrew books. The most common form is that of the inverted cone, where the lines taper either to a very short line or to a single word. This custom is found in many Hebrew manuscripts; it being an old idea that nothing should be left blank upon the last page of a copy of the Torah ("Soferim," ed. Müller, p. 20). For colophons in manuscripts see Manuscripts.

  • Steinschneider and Cassel, Jüdische Typographie, in Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. pp. 26 et seq..;
  • Zunz, Z. G. pp. 214 et seq.;
  • a number of early colophons are reproduced in Berliner's Ueber dem Einfluss des Ersten Hebr. Buchdrucks, Frankfort, 1896, and in his Aus Meiner Bibliothek, ib. 1898;
  • compare De Vinne, Title-Pages as Seen by a Printer, pp. 1-14, New York, 1901.
J. G.
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