The third installment of The Cassuto Collection of Iberian Books is being offered at tomorrow’s auction. Many of the books in this allotment not only had to deal with the Inquisition’s censorship, but in some cases had to even use deception in order to get printed, as is the case with Lot 307, the crown jewel of the collections current offerings…
Al Principio crio el Dio alos çielos y ala tierra – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
[..]Ferrara, 1553 $30,000-50,000
OF UNPARALLELLED BEAUTY, THE FERRARA BIBLE REPRESENTS ONE OF THE GREAT LANDMARKS IN THE HISTORY OF PRINTING. It is the first Spanish translation of the entire Hebrew Bible, the work of Jews who had carried the language with them into exile. The Gothic typography and the presswork of this stately folio volume are exceedingly fine. The text, based upon older medieval Castillian versions that had circulated among the Jews of Spain, became virtually canonical for Sephardic Jews in Europe.
[..]Completed on March 1st, 1553, the Ferrara Bible is a remarkable achievement. The entire text is obviously Jewish from beginning to end, avoiding the Christological nuances and mistranslations of the Vulgate…
[..]The title page of the Bible proclaims that it is a “word for word translation from the Hebrew Truth.” It also states that the translation was “seen and examined by the Office of the Inquisition.” On the bottom of the page is recorded that the book was printed “under a privilege from the Duke of Ferrara.” There is no doubt the Duke permitted the Jews to print the book, but it is inconceivable that this translation could have been approved by the Inquisition. The Catholic Church would have approved of no translation other than the Vulgate, which was its official version. Moreover it would not have given approval to a translation based upon the Hebrew text, edited in a style that was faithful to the traditional Jewish Bible commentaries. Aside from that, authorizations by the Inquisition never appeared as part of the title of a book, but rather as a seal on the title page or the last page. Such authorizations did not refer to the “Office of the Inquisition,” but rather to the “holy Office” (santo oficio). Most likely the formula printed here on the title page was coined for the sake of appearances and Duke Ercole II probably agreed to the deception.
Important to note is the tragic iconography of the title-page which is truly emblematic of the entire era. In the top center of the ornate woodcut frame is a head of a bearded Neptune, who, with bulging cheeks, is blowing a storm . Beneath the lines of text, a ship flounders in the waves of a raging sea, its sails torn, its mast broken. The ship represents the afflicted Jewish people, particularly the Spanish and Portuguese exiles, in their perilous search for a safe heaven. Further symbolism may be found: At the top of one of the masts there is an armillary sphere which represent a dramatically inverted symmetry. The very same device that was for Portugal, a sign of its great age of exploration and its hope for glory, becomes here, a symbol of Jewish latest age of wandering, and its hope for a secure refuge from the storm of its suffering.
THE FERRARA BIBLE, A MASTERPIECE OF 16TH CENTURY JEWISH BOOK PRODUCTION, BECAME THE CLASSIC SPANISH VERSION OF THE BIBLE FOR THE MARRANOS RETURNING TO JUDAISM AND INDEED FOR THE ENTIRE SEPHARDIC DIASPORA AS A WHOLE FOR CENTURIES THEREAFTER.
A truly daring achievement for the times, and proof that the Jewish spirit is truly unconquerable as long as we tenaciously cling to our beliefs, and to our tradition.
Lot 324 is another interesting work…
LEON, JACOB JUDAH (TEMPLO). Tavnith Heichal – Libellus Effigiei Templi Salomonia. FIRST HEBREW EDITION. Separate Hebrew and Latin titles, Spanish dedications to the Parnassim of the Sephardic Congregation Talmud Torah of Amsterdam, followed by a Hebrew translation of the Privileges granted by the United Dutch Provinces. Numerous previos owner’s marks, including various members of the Belmonte Family. ff 6, (l), 4-38. Ex-library, some staining. Contemporary calf, worn, spine taped. Sm. 4to. Vinograd, Amsterdam 179 (unseen); Fuks, Amsterdam 266.
Amsterdam, Marcus Levi, 1650 $1000-1500
Treatise on the exterior, interior, and ritual objects of the Temple of Solomon. The name “templo” was added to the author’s family name on account of the celebrated copper engravings of Solomon’s Temple that Jacob Judah Leon prepared for his scarce work. Retrato del Templo de Solomon (1642).
It is interesting to note that earlier this year, we spoke of the Spanish and English translations of this very same book (photo of a detailed illustration included), published in 1654 and 1675 respectively and currently in the possession of the New York Public Library.
Lot 317 is important mainly because it exposes the ruthlessness of the Inquisition…
(INQUISITION). Beringer, Joachim. Hispanicae Inquisitionis & Carnicinae Secretoria. [“The Spanish Inquisition and the Secret Torture Chamber”) FIRST EDITION. pp. 334. Foxed. Contemporary vellum, discolored. 8vo.
Amber (Bavaria) Johannes Schönfeld, 1611 $500-700
Anti-Inquisitorial tract, based on maily on the earlier work of Reginaldus Gonsalvius Montanus (pseudonym of the Spanish theologian and Bible translator Casiodoro de Reina), SanctaeInquisitionis Hispanicae Artes (heidelberg 1567).
(HEBREW). Joannem Ab Incarnatione. Dikduk Leshon HaKedosha / Grammatica Linguae Sancta. FIRST EDITION. Latin interspersed with fully vocalized Hebrew. pp. (8), 4, 549, (I blank). Lightly browned. Contemporary calf-backed marbled boards. 4to.
Coimbra, Typis Academiae, 1789 $500-700
Rare Hebrew grammar printed in Portugal. It might strike one as ironic that at the height of the Inquisition, when Portugal had been purged of Judaism, the Hebrew language – “the sacred tongue” – was studied by Catholic theologians at the prestigious University of Coimbra.
WorldCat shows but a single copy of the book, located in the Sterling Library, Yale University.
It seems very strange that even as the Inquisition denied the Jews the right to live as Jews – under penalty of death – that its theologians felt compelled to study what they regarded as “the sacred tongue.” Confused?
There is so much among these offerings covering everything from halacha to kabbalah, from TaNa”CH to prayer, from ethical writings to historical documents and much more. This auction will take place tomorrow June 21st, 2012; 3:00pm at Kestenbaum & Company at 242 West 30th, 12th floor; New York, NY 10001- Tel: 212.366.1197 – Fax: 212.366.1368.
You Have Taught Me Since My Youth – A Judaica Auction – Part 1
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 1
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 2
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 3