Krotoszynski’s Further Efforts

This is a continuation of the previous article.

In the second half of the 1780s, King Stanisław August Poniatowski ended Kruger’s monopoly on Hebrew prints by giving privileges to establish Jewish printing houses to a few magnates as well as to the Lublin Rabbi – Hersch Szewlowicz (Szawelowicz). In the beginning of the year 1789, Piotr Zawadzki [1], who was a metal casting artisan from Warsaw and the owner of one of the country’s largest font foundry, established his own printing house, without having first a proper privilege.

When it became clear that he planned on issuing Hebrew prints there as well, Dufour strongly protested. The complaint sent to the royal court was successful: the King forbade his royal offices to issue any kind of privilege to print Hebrew documents to Zawadzki, confirming also that the privilege to print Hebrew documents Dufour “has sold with the royal permission to one named Krüger, who settled in Nowy Dwor owned by Prince Stanisław and prints there”. Zawadzki, however, was not quick to give up, and soon he reached his goal – in August of 1789 he won the coveted printing permit for, among others, Hebrew books. It is not known whether he ever used it, though, as no Hebraica are known to be printed by him.

Shortly after the Targowica Confederation’s coup [2], a number of new initiatives appeared to establish a Hebrew printing house in Warsaw. Leisor Yitzhak Krotoszynski, who at the time served as a trustee of the Jewish community in Praga [3], re-enters the scene. Until recently he lived in Nowy Dwor and worked at the local printing house since its launch, where he held a variety of positions, among others, as he told himself, a manager or even a partner. His cooperation with Krüger wasn’t very smooth, however. He was treated badly and was even moved away completely from printing house affairs, which became a subject of his complaints to the authorities. For instance, in November of 1792 he sent a letter to the Tax Commission of Crown. He boasted in it that “he built the printing house in Nowy Dwor” (sic!) and complained that the profits brought in by the printing were taken by Krüger, who was cheating not only the author of this letter, but also the royal treasury, as he was not stamping the printed books. The author also addressed the Commission with a request to issue him a royal privilege to establish a printing house in Warsaw. The Tax Commission of the Crown was, however, unable to issue him said privilege for formal reasons, because the only organ allowed to issue it was the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation as the highest political authority in the country. But Leisor Yitzhak never sent an appropriate request to the Confederation.

In that situation, in the beginning of 1793 Krotoszynski turned to Piotr Zawadzki with a proposal of cooperation, as he already held all the necessary permits for Jewish printing, and more importantly, it seemed that his printing house was almost inactive as a result of the general situation in the country. Thus, nothing stood in the way to use part of its production capacity to print with Hebrew fonts. Krotoszynski planned on printing at Zawadzki’s mainly newspapers, calendars and leaflets, so he focused on mass production. The only problem was the need to obtain the approval of a censorship office, introduced preventively by the supporters of the Targowica Confederation.

For this purpose, Leisor Yitzhak turned to the Marshal Jurisdiction with an appropriate letter. In it he demanded that, firstly, he was issued a license for the use of the owned printing press and publishing “in the Jewish language calendars and other documents in the country needed for the Jewish people”; secondly, that he was provided a monopoly for the planned printing of “newspapers, proclamations and calendars”; thirdly, that his sons were granted the right to practice the profession of printing by way of succession; fourthly, that the Jews were obliged to purchase calendars from him when buying “tickets” for temporary stay in Warsaw. The moment Krüger heard about it, he wrote a formal protest, arguing, quite wrongly, that Zawadzki was not allowed to own a privilege for printing Hebrew documents as such a privilege was already granted to the Nowy Dwor printer (which he first bought from Dufour), and said privilege gave him the exclusive right to print and sell Hebrew publications in the country. Krüger must have been aware of the fact, that not only the King issued additional privileges for Jewish prints in the ‘1780s (including the one given to Piotr Zawadzki), but also that the import of foreign publications was never inhibited, so his arguments were somewhat far-fetched.

Both of the letters were considered by the Marshal Jurisdiction at its meeting on April 12, 1793 and it agreed with Johan Antoni Krüger. He was backed not just by the prestige of royal privilege, but also by significant achievements in the development of the domestic publishing market of the Hebrew book (he did print over one hundred titles in Nowy Dwor until that day). Leisor Yitzhak had only his ambitious plans to show against him, which were unfortunately based only on a general agreement of cooperation with Zawadzki, and he certainly did not have also the proper financial security. One more time, Krotoszynski had to accept the bitterness of failure.

During the Kosciuszko Uprising [4], the situation in the country changed dramatically – in the name of national unity and common struggle to save the Republic, a voice was given to historically impaired social groups: peasants, bourgeoisie, and the Jewish population. Using favorable socio-political and printing conditions in Warsaw, Leisor Yitzhak, at the time using the title of a trustee of the Jewish community in Łowicz [5], appealed to the National Supreme Council in the beginning of June to be granted licenses to establish a printing house and to publish a newspaper and calendars for the use of his fellows. Krotoszynski received all the necessary documents issued by the Council on June 17th, and from now on he boasted the title “the Warsaw printer”.

However, Leisor Yitzhak was unable to benefit from the permits received from the National Supreme Council. Such an undertaking like the creation of a printing house from scratch would require the purchase or lease of suitable equipment, rental of premises, employment of qualified personnel, the acquisition of paper, etc., was extremely difficult to achieve in the harsh conditions of Warsaw during the uprising. They not only required huge organizational effort, but above all, considerable financial resources, for which this old and tired after troubled life “Warsaw printer” by the nomination of the National Supreme Council, had neither the strength nor, as usual, money. Although he still tried to get the funds by writing petitions to the authorities (even to Tadeusz Kościuszko himself), in which he was referring to his previous merits and requested support and promised that the moment the printing had started, he would have allocate part of the revenue for the national treasury (and so, once again, used the same emotional arguments and vague promises as before), but this time, as many times in the past, all his efforts were in vain. After the capitulation of Warsaw on November 8, 1794 all decisions made by the insurgent government were voided, including the authorization received by Leisor Yitzhak Krotoszynski.

And thus, the 18th century Warsaw never saw an active Jewish printing house.

[1] Zawadzki opened his “metal casting factory for the carving of steel letters and casting them” in the year 1777 under the appropriate privilege. He produced Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Cyrillic fonts as well as musical notes. After the death of Piotr Zawadzki in 1796, the company was run by his widow – Magdalena.
[2] The Targowica Confederation was a confederation established by Polish and Lithuanian magnates on 27 April 1792, in Saint Petersburg, with the backing of the Russian Empress Catherine II. The confederation opposed the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791, especially the provisions limiting the privileges of the nobility. More...
[3] Praga is a historical borough of Warsaw, the capital of Poland. It is located on the east bank of the river Vistula. First mentioned in 1432, until 1791 it formed a separate town with its own city charter. More...
[4] The Kościuszko Uprising (1794) was an uprising against Imperial Russia and the Kingdom of Prussia led by Tadeusz Kościuszko. It was a failed attempt to liberate Poland and Lithuania from Russian influence after the Second Partition of Poland (1793) and the creation of the Targowica Confederation. More...
[5] Łowicz is a town in Łódź Province, upon the River Bzura. In the early Middle Ages it was a settlement, situated at the crossing through the Bzura River, where fairs took place. The first Jews came to Łowicz at the beginning of the 16th century. Łowicz was famous for trade that took place during well-known annual fairs and weekly markets. More...

Translated from Polish by Rochel Joanna Czopnik

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