Monthly Archives: February 2014

Jerusalem, Jerusalem

W H1474 Bak device

The first printing house in Palestine was founded in Safed, and published only six books in its short existence (1577-1587). Hebrew printing in Palestine was re-established by Israel ben Abraham Bak, who brought his printing equipment to Safed in 1831 from Ukraine. He repeatedly lost his printing press whilst in Safed due to an earthquake and riots. Thus in the late 1830s he decided to move the printing house to Jerusalem. As part of his endeavour to promote prosperity in the Holy Land, Moses Montefiore supplied him with new, modern printing press.
 W H1474 title page opening
Hayim Horowitz’s book, Sefer Hibat Yerushalayim was printed in this new printing house in Jerusalem. Its title page is dominated by Bak’s impressive printer’s device depicting the major landmarks of Jerusalem: the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives.
Our copy is signed by Nahman Nathan Coronel Palestinian scholar.

(shelfmark: W H1474)

Amulet or Charm for a newborn’s cot: קמע

Highlight from the Raphael Loewe Pamphlet Collection

This charm, assumed to have originated in Cairo is part of the Raphael Loewe pamphlet collection. It was probably acquired by Herbert Loewe, Raphael’s father, during his time as Master of English at the schools of the Alliance of Cairo and Abyassiyeh in Egypt.

All that is known of the original ownership is the bottom line in the margin: For the son of Elia Joseph, born 6 Marheshvan 5612 [2nd November 1851] (shown in the image below).

The Charm would have been placed over the cot as protection. This amulet is decorated with central Kabbalistic symbols including the star of David and the menorah. The Shema is the main text and the seven branches of the menorah are filled with seven verse from Psalm 67.

amulet 4 detail

Loewe pamphlets: Follkore and Magic I,9

German-Jewish Gossipman illustrated


“Der Gevattersmann” (Gossipman), edited by Berthold (Baruch) Auerbach (1812-1882), a German-Jewish historian, writer and a Spinozist, was published between 1845 and 1848 in Braunschweig. It was aimed especially at country people. According to Hurst, the calendar became the household treasure of every rural hearth in Middle and South Germany. This particular issue (1848) boasts 33 beautiful woodcut print illustrations, depicting a variety of scenes of every-day life. A selection of images is shown below.

To learn more about Berthold Auerbach, his German patriotism, idealism, attitudes to Judaism and emancipation, as well as his disappointment at German anti-Semitism, click here. Our copy of “Der Gevattersmann” for year 1848 comes as part of the private library of Leopold Zunz [Foyle-Montefiore Collection, shelfmark: Mont 69c40].

Today’s highlight is another seventeenth-century book printed in Amsterdam by Johannes Jodocus Janssonius (shelfmark: W F823; see also, Constantijn L’Empereur’s commentary on the Book of Daniel). The “ExtrW F823aordinary Professor of Semitic Languages” at the University of Koenigsberg, Johannes Stephanus Rittangel (1606-1652) published his Latin translation of Sefer Yetsirah. This was the third latin translation and the first bilingual publication of the famous book of Jewish mysticism. It is not clear whether Rittangel was a converted Jew or a temporary convert to Judaism. He certainly had an excellent command of Hebrew and spent decades among Jews including Karaites of Lithuania. On his way from Lithuania to Konigsberg in 1640 or 1641, he wanted to stop in Amsterdam to publish his translation of Sefer Yetsirah. However, his ship was attacked by pirates and he ended up in England, where he got acquainted with famous Christian Hebraists such as Samuel Hartlib, John Dury and John Selden. He finally published the book in 1642. Although he was undoubtedly knowledgeable, “his abrasive and difficult personality” “made him impossible to deal with” (for more on him, see Daniel J. Lasker, “Karaism and Christian Hebraism: A New Document,” Renaissance Quarterly, 59:4, [Winter, 2006]: 1089-1116).