304 pages (4 3/4 x 2 3/4 in; 120 x 70 mm). Pagination: , 237  . Title page with woodcut architectural border. Very minor marginal loss, pp.141-44, not affecting text. Owner's signature on title page. Rebound with remnants of original boards laid down.
Collection of Chimen Abramsky
Steinschneider 6205, 10; Palau 162805; Cat. Menasseh 35
In the late 1630's, Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657), the famed Amsterdam Rabbi, author and printer wrote a series of works in Latin on various theological problems, all printed at Amsterdam—De Creatione (1635), De Resurrectione Mortuorum (1635), and the present work, De Termino Vitæ (1639). Here, Menasseh lays stress on the universality of salvation and on the freedom of man. Menasseh explained the Jewish viewpoint on the span of human life (first part), the possibility of extending life (second part) and the compatibility of human freedom with God's foreknowledge (third part). In addition, Menasseh records autobiographical information, unmentioned in any of his other works, including his father's imprisonment and torture by the Spanish Inquisition, and the family's successful quest for safe haven in the Netherlands. Menasseh also refers to his teacher Rabbi Isaac Uziel, his marriage to Rachel Abravanel, his two sons Samuel and Joseph and his daughter Gracia, and his brother Ephraim, whom he sent to Brazil (pp. 236-7.)
As demonstrated by Hausherr, Menasseh assisted Rembrandt with the interpretation of a dramatic scene from the Book of Daniel (5:1-30) portrayed most famously in Rembrandt's Belshazzar's Feast of about 1635, hanging in the National Gallery, London. In this monumental painting, the prophecy of Belshazzar's demise, inscribed by a mysterious hand, the warning 'Mene, Mene Tekel u-Farsin,' reads vertically rather than horizontally. The same formulation is given by Menasseh in the present work (p. 160.)
Literature: Reiner Hausherr. "Zur Menetekel-Inschrift auf Rembrandts Belsazarbild" in Oud Holland, vol 78, 1963: pp. 142-49.
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