Category Archives: Highlights

A restored incunabulum – Naḥmanides, Ḥiddushe ha-Torah

Ramban among others
This edition of Nahmanides’ commentary on the Pentateuch from 1489 was the first book printed in Lisbon. It was published by two rabbis, Samuel Zorba and Eliezer Toledano and preceded the first Latin book printed in Lisbon by some six years. Toledano’s printing house was one of the earliest to use borders in his publications. His Nahmanides’ commentary has a beautiful inhabited floral border around first page. The frame was designed by a Christian printer and engraver, Alfonso Fernández de Córdoba originally for a Hebrew Bible published in 1486 and 1487 by Eliezer ben Abraham ibn Alatansi and Solomon ben Maimon Zalmati in Híjar, Spain. For operating a printing shop with Jewish connections, Fernando was sentenced to death in absentia in Valencia.
W B1i opening2
During the long life of this book, it must have been detached from its binding and remained unprotected. As a consequence, it lost several leaves from the beginning and the end. In 1954, the volume was restored: the missing leaves were replaced by photographic facsimile from another copy and it was rebound in a beautiful leather binding preserving it for the future. (Shelfmark W B1i)

First opening with engraved border  (facsimile leaves)

First opening with engraved border (facsimile leaves)


Opening with a facsimile leaf on the right and original on the left side.

Opening with a facsimile leaf on the right and original on the left side.

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).

A commentary on the Book of Daniel and slavery abolitionists – is there a connection?

The title page of our copy of Constantijn L’Empereur’s commentary on the Book of Daniel (Paraphrasis Don Iosephi Iachiadae in Danielem, Amsterdam, 1733, shelfmark: W B797) bears a signature of one Granville Sharp. Could he be the Grandville Sharp who was a pioneer in the abolition of slavery in Britain? The latter Sharp (1735-1813) was born in Durham into a clerical family and was interested in biblical scholarship, antiquariansim and linguistics – he taught himself Greek and Hebrew. He was member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the first chairman of the British and Foreign Bible Society.


Owning a commentary on Daniel written by the seventeenth-century Dutch Hebraist Constantijn L’Empereur seems like a probable match. Also in the Dictionary of National Biography, there is only one Granville Sharp recorded at all.
However, to be sure that “our” Sharp is the abolitionist Sharp we would have to compare the signature in our to book to a verified signature. If any of our FB followers has such a signature at hand…. now is the time to contribute to the further exploration of our collection!