This text was prepared by William Gross:
In 1666 there was a great commotion in the Jewish world as a man, Shabbetai Tzvi, a Sephardic Rabbi and kabbalist born in Smyrna, proclaimed himself to be the messiah. With all the terrible troubles that beset the Jewish people in the middle of the 17th century, the hope that he was the true messiah took root. Many Jews enthusiastically embraced him, and began to prepare for the End of Days. When, in 1667, he converted to Islam rather than face martyrdom, the disappointment and shame of those who had believed in this false messiah was palpable.
This Bible was printed in 1666, when the Shabbetean controversy was at its zenith. The words on its closing page, "Chazak ve-Nitchazek" ("Be strong and we will be strengthened") constitute a phrase used by Shabbetai Tzvi’s supportors, thereby hinting at the Sabbatean leanings of the book publisher. Its ornate title page, filled with biblical images, is a variation of the second copy of this book, Gross Family Collection, B.6
As indicated by the inscription at the bottom of the title page, this was the personal copy Shmuel Rosa, the man who sponsored the publication of this volume.
David de Castro Tartas, active from 1662 - 1698, published close to 70 books in Hebrew and a number in other languages, primarily Spanish. He was the son of conversos who came to Amsterdam in 1640 via France where they returned to their ancestral faith. His brother Isaac, having gone to Racife and Bahia, was burned at an auto-de-fe in 1647, refusing to abjure his faith. David learned the printer's craft at the press of Menasseh Ben Israel, working there as a compositor. In 1662 he established his own press, in competition with the already-active presses of Uri Phoebus and Joseph Athias.
The book is bound in a fine contemporary sharkskin binding with silver clasps, one of which remains. Its high quality represents an example of the type of objects demanded by a wealthy and successful Sephardic community at this time in Amsterdam. On the title page are delineated the four crowns, including that of the crown of "a good name", an unusual occurrence.
457 pp. Brought to Press by: Shmuel ben Yitzhak Baruch Rosa