141
141
Sefer Yetsirah (The Book of Creation), Attributed to the Patriarch Abraham, Mantua: Jacob Cohen of Gazzolo, 1562
Estimate
10,00015,000
LOT SOLD. 13,750 USD
JUMP TO LOT
141
Sefer Yetsirah (The Book of Creation), Attributed to the Patriarch Abraham, Mantua: Jacob Cohen of Gazzolo, 1562
Estimate
10,00015,000
LOT SOLD. 13,750 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Judaica

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New York

Sefer Yetsirah (The Book of Creation), Attributed to the Patriarch Abraham, Mantua: Jacob Cohen of Gazzolo, 1562
105 folios (8 3/8 x 5 3/4 in.; 212 x 146 mm) on paper; headers throughout; catchwords throughout; censor’s signature on f. 1r; marginalia and strikethroughs in pen on ff. 78r-79r, 102v. Enlarged incipits; title within woodcut architectural arch; fifteen (usually circular) diagrams, including three with mounted volvelles (ff. 10v, 33r, 77r); six tables of various kinds (ff. 32r, 35v, 65r, 82r, 101v); tapering text on ff. [20r], 29r, 35v, 39r, 41v, 44v, 46r, 54r, 68r, 84r, 90v, 101v. Slight scattered staining; minor worming (usually expertly repaired) throughout, generally affecting only individual letters; light dampstaining episodically in upper margin; title reinforced along gutter; pencil corrections of foliation on some leaves; upper-outer corner of ff. 3-4 repaired; ff. 99-101 misbound after f. 105; small tears in upper margin of f. 102 repaired. Modern half morocco over marbled boards; spine in four compartments with raised bands; gilt title, place, and year of publication (in English) on spine; modern paper flyleaves and pastedowns.
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Catalogue Note

Sefer yetsirah, the earliest extant Hebrew text of systematic, speculative thought, was written anonymously in antiquity, most likely in third- to sixth-century CE Palestine by a devout Jew with leanings toward mysticism of the speculative and magical, rather than ecstatic, variety. In six brief chapters, the work treats the topics of cosmology (the structure of the universe) and cosmogony (how the universe came into being) via expositions on the ten so-called Sefirot (the first use of this term in Jewish literature) and the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which were used to create the world. In the millennium after it first appeared, it exerted immense influence on both philosophically- and kabbalistically-inclined Jewish scholars, many of whom wrote commentaries on it.

The present lot is the first edition of this seminal tract, printed in Mantua in 1562 by the same publisher who only a few years earlier had printed the first edition of the Zohar (1558-1560). It begins (ff. 2r-18v) with a long introduction attributed to Rabbi Abraham ben David of Posquières (Rabad; ca. 1125-1198) but actually composed by Rabbi Joseph ben Shalom Ashkenazi of Spain (early fourteenth century), as well as a shorter introduction (ff. [19r-20r]) by Rabbi Moses ben Isaac Botarel (end of fourteenth-beginning of fifteenth centuries). The body of the work follows (starting on f. 20v) and is surrounded on three sides by the commentaries of Ashkenazi (attributed to Rabad), Botarel, and Rabbi Azriel ben Menahem of Gerona (early thirteenth century), the last attributed to Nahmanides (1194-1270). The volume concludes with a commentary later attributed to Rabbi Saadiah ben Joseph Gaon (882-942), as well as an abbreviated version of the commentary of Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms (ca. 1165-ca. 1230) (ff. 91r-101v), followed by an alternate version of the text of the book itself (ff. 102r-105r) and the printer’s colophon (f. 105r-v).

In general, this edition is accompanied by an illustrated final leaf containing important diagrams. In the present copy, however, these have been cut out and mounted as volvelles onto their appropriate pages (see ff. 10v, 33r, 77r; though see f. 8r-v). Another intriguing feature of this exemplar is evidence of two kinds of censorship: external and internal. Latin writing on the title dated 1628 testifies to the former, while Hebrew marginalia and strikethroughs of certain key words in passages on ff. 78r-79r point to the latter. In the second case, it appears that one of the book’s owners expurgated the text in order to prevent the uninitiated from engaging in she’elat halom (the practice of seeking knowledge from the Divine while dreaming).

Provenance

Hezekiah Jacob Suri (f. 2r)

Literature

Vinograd, Mantua 86

Important Judaica

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New York