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 “Extraordinary 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).
Today’s highlight is Leopold Zunz’s own copy of Bartolocci’s Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica. The first edition four-volume set was published between 1675-1693 in Rome, ex Typographia Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide. The work is considered one of the first comprehensive non-critical Hebrew bibliographies and is one of the earliest products of Italian Christian Hebraism. Leopold Zunz used and quoted it extensively in his first critical scholarly works on Hebrew bibliography.
Don Iulio Bartoloccio (Giulio Bartolocci), born in 1613 in Celleno, was a Cistercian monk and a student of a converted Jew – Giovanni Battista Jonah Galileo (formerly Judah Jonah of Safed). Bartolocci was appointed Professor of Hebrew and Rabbinics at the Collegium Neophytorum in Rome (1651), institution created to re-educate Jewish converts. He was also a Hebrew Scribe at the Vatican Library.
We hold 3 volumes of the work as part of the Foyle-Montefiore Collection, formerly the library of Sir Moses Montefiore [shelfmark: Mont 63cd18]. The Foyle-Montefiore Collection is abundant in works by other famous Christian Hebraists and bibliographers such as Johannes Buxtorf (1564-1629), Johann Leusden (1624-99), John Selden (1584-1654), John Lightfoot (1602-75), Giovanni Bernardo De’Rossi (1742-1831) and Moritz Steinschneider (1816-1907).