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).
Hezekiah Jacob Suri (f. 2r)
Vinograd, Mantua 86
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