Obj. ID: 40578
Jewish printed books Welt-Chronick by Johannes Praetorius, Nuremberg (Nürnberg), 1667
This text was prepared by William Gross:
This book is a chronicle of the major events for the 1666 and published in the following year. Of the ten events described, one section is the story of Shabbati Tzvi. Such yearly summaries of the previous year's events were published in Europe at this time. The surprising element here is to find a completely contemporary account of the Shabbtai Tzvi story as one of the ten great world events for 1666, in the same listing with such an important occurrence as the great fire in London in the same year. The story is accompanies by a fold out leaf on which are depicted graphically the main events of the story.
Shabbetai Zvi was born in Smyrna in 1626, he showed early promise as a Talmudic scholar, and even more as a student and devotee of Kabbalah. More pronounced than his scholarship were his strange mystical speculations and religious ecstasies. He traveled to various cities, his strong personality and his alternately ascetic and self-indulgent behavior attracting and repelling rabbis and populace alike. He was expelled from Salonica by its rabbis for having staged a wedding service with himself as bridegroom and the Torah as bride. His erratic behavior continued. For long periods, he was a respected student and teacher of Kabbalah; at other times, he was given to messianic fantasies and bizarre acts. At one point, living in Jerusalem seeking "peace for his soul," he sought out a self-proclaimed "man of God," Nathan of Gaza, who declared Shabbetai Zvi to be the Messiah. Then Shabbetai Zvi began to act the part, as Gershom Scholem describes:
Riding around on horseback in majestic state [he] summoned a group of his followers, appointing them as apostles or representatives of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The messianic news spread like wildfire to other communities in Palestine. First reports about Shabbetai Zvi reached Europe early in October 1665, containing detailed accounts. Much was mixed with legendary material and arrived as well in Italy, Holland, Germany and Poland. Messianic fervor took hold of communities that had no immediate experience of persecution and bloodshed as well as those which experienced such events. Repentance alternating with public maniFeztations of joy and enthusiasm was the order of the day. From many places delegations left bearing parchments signed by the leaders of the community which acknowledged him as the Messiah and king of Israel.
Not only did Shabbetai Zvi gain militant adherents in his native Turkey and in the Near East, but even in such cosmopolitan European cities as Venice, Livorno, and Amsterdam leading rabbis and sophisticated men of affairs were caught up in the messianic frenzy.
On September 15, 1666, Shabbetai Zvi, brought before the Sultan and given the choice of death or apostasy, prudently chose the latter, setting a turban on his head to signify his conversion to Islam, for which he was rewarded with the honorary title "Keeper of the Palace Gates" and a pension of 150 piasters a day. The apostasy shocked the Jewish world. Leaders and followers alike refused to believe it. Many continued to anticipate a second coming, and faith in false messiahs continued through the eighteenth century. In the vast majority of believers, revulsion and remorse set in and there was an active endeavor to erase all evidence, even mention of the pseudo-Messiah. Pages were removed from communal registers, and documents were destroyed. Few copies of the books that celebrated Shabbetai Zvi survived, and those that did have become rarities much sought after by libraries and collectors.
The Weltchronik was written by Johannes Praetorius, a prodigious writer about events and people, often featuring strange stories, with a large number of publications. He wrote this chronicle of world events three times, covering the years 1666, 1667 and 1668. The present volume is the first of the three. This volume was published my Johann Hoffmman Kunsthandler from Nuremberg.
Praetorius was a great admirer of the concept of Kunstkammer in the 17th century and was himself a passionate collector of the strange and the curious, often believing in artifacts supposedly from giants, mermaids and mythical animals.