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The Christian Who Set the Talmud’s Layout

The Gemara page (Daf) is recognizable to all students of the Talmud, whether the student is in school, yeshiva, or university. The Daf, structured with the Gemara in the center of the page, Rashi’s commentary in the interior section, and the Tosafot (lit. addendums, an important set of medieval commentaries) in the exterior section.

This page layout makes good sense, because it allows the student to move from the text in the center, to Rashi in order to understand the issue presented in the Daf, and to theTosafot. This is the way the Talmud is printed and it seems as though it had always been this way, since the dawn of Jewish study.
Surprisingly, this structure was actually set by a Catholic printer in 16th century Venice.


Prior to the invention of the printing press, books were written and copied by hand, so each copy was laid out differently from every other one. Often the text and commentaries were written in separate manuscripts, which required maneuvering between several books and documents.

Italian manuscript of Rashi on Pentanteuch, 15th century


With the onset of the printing press, the Talmud also appeared in printed form. Different printed editions were laid out differently and included different commentaries. An edition from Guadalajara in 1482, for example, included


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