The world record of Reggio: the story of the “Commentaries” printed in 1475 arrives on French and German TV


By John

For once Calabria beat everyone to the punch. It was 1475 and he printed his first texts with movable type, like Gutenberg in 1455 in Mainz. AND it was then that Reggio “wrote” its world record, when right on the shores of the Strait the printer Avraham Ben Garton, a Jew who escaped from the Iberian peninsula, chose to print not the Bible but Rabbi Rashi's Commentaries on the books of the Torah, today recognized as the first printed Jewish work. A fascinating story, lived in a legendary printing house in the Jewish quarter of Giudecca: here the brilliant craftsman combined Rashi's comments with the then newborn movable type technique to the central reference of Judaism. A technological innovation which from Calabria allowed Rashi's thoughts to spread throughout the world and which now fuels an international debate of the highest level, involving, in recent days, the TV channels of France and Germany.

«It is thanks to the brilliant and visionary Ben Garton that Rav Rabbi Chlomo Ben Itzhak Hatzarfati known as Rashi is the most read and translated French author in the world», underlines France 2, the public French TV channel which on Sunday dedicated a special to the very popular Jewish culture column «À l'origine» to the modernity of Rabbi Rashi and his ability to anticipate interreligious dialogue. Guests of the episode will be the Chief Rabbi of France Haïm Korsia, the French philosopher, journalist and essayist Bernard-Henri Lévy and the elite of French and European Judaism.

A specific space was dedicated to Reggio Calabria «which during the Renaissance became the world capital of publishing». The Chief Rabbi of France himself magnified the technological-editorial innovations born in the Giudecca district: «The brilliant craftsman Ben Garton was in some ways the inventor of the modern hypertext». The program did not limit itself to talking about Reggio but also reconstructed the legendary printing press in via Giudecca born «à Reggio de Calabre», highlighting the apical role of the city in the history of world publishing.

Journalist and mass media expert Klaus Davi rejoices, already a candidate for mayor of Reggio, who was the first to believe in the communicative potential of this incredible story: «It is a recognition of the work we have been doing for years. Finishing in prime time on French TV confirms that our intuition was right.” Davi anticipates an upcoming report also on German TV which will be released before the Easter holidays. The broadcaster 3Sat, a German public channel broadcast in Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland, will deal with it and will give its version of the facts. The German broadcaster has its thesis on the fact that Avraham Ben Garton managed to beat the “blue chips” of medieval Judaism, namely Mainz, Worms and Speyer, known as the famous “SchUM-Stätten”, a UNESCO heritage site in Germany from 2021 for their Jewish past, nuclei that made up a real Jerusalem on the Rhine. «Now I hope – says Davi – that the president of the Calabria Region, Roberto Occhiuto, who has always believed in this project, defines with the Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano the return of the Commentary, which is now located in the Palatine Library of Parma, in the monumental complex of the Pilotta, in Reggio Calabria, after 500 years, and that a meeting be scheduled as soon as possible.”