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Obj. ID: 35324
Jewish printed books
  Tehillim, Amsterdam, 1646

© Gross Family Collection, Photographer: Unknown,

The following description was prepared by William Gross:

This small book is one of the rarest prints to be issued from the press of Menashe be Yisrael in Amsterdam. It small size assured its disappearence over the centuries and is the cause for its rarity today. As well, books of Psalms were read very often, leading to their deterioration and abandonment.
Menasseh ben Israel was one of the great figures of Sephardic Jewry, not only for his printing activities, but also for his erudite knowledge, his writings and his role as spokesman for his people. His father had thrice escaped death in Lisbon, Portugal, and resettled in Amsterdam to start life anew. Menasseh was given the best possible education in the Sephardic tradition. He studied under Chacham Isaac Uziel in the newly established Yeshiva in Amsterdam and excelled in his Talmudic studies and in his thorough knowledge of the Bible. At the astonishingly young age of 18 years he was appointed to the Rabbinical Council of Amsterdam, consisting of four members. A gifted orator and well versed in secular knowledge and culture, Menasseh was soon the most popular preacher in the new world center of Sephardic Jewry.
His fame as a scholar and as an expert on all matters of learning and science spread far beyond Holland. Some of the greatest scholars of the world sought his friendship and advice. The Queen of Sweden, Christina (the daughter of Gustaf Adolf), the painter Rembrandt, and the statesman and philosopher Hugo Grotius, were among his non-Jewish correspondents and friends. Yet, with all his secular knowledge and fame, Menasseh ben Israel devoted most of his time and interest to Jewish studies and to the defense of the Bible against many critics.
Poverty caused Menasseh ben Israel to turn his attention at least temporarily to practical business. He established the first Hebrew printing press in Holland, and was the father of the great printing and publishing tradition of Amsterdam, from which stemmed some of the best editions of the Tanach, the Talmud, and many other important volumes of Hebrew literature. In time, it became a flourishing business.
Menasseh earned his greatest merits as a spokesman for his Jewish brethren. He used his friendship with Queen Christina to induce her to consider the opening of Scandinavia as a haven of refuge for the thousands of Jewish refugees who were still wandering from one country to another, driven from place to place, deprived of their last possessions by greedy rulers and their still greedier subjects. He almost succeeded, when Christina abdicated from the throne. Yet Menasseh ben Israel did not abandon his hopes for providing new havens for his brethren. His attention now centered on England. In 1650 Menasseh sent a petition to the English Parliament to officially grant the readmission of Jews. He dedicated to it his manuscript called "The Hope of Israel." Menasseh expressed the wish to be permitted to visit England and defend in person the cause of the Jews. This permission was granted to him; but the outbreak of hostilities between England and Holland postponed his trip to Britain for more than five years.
In October 1655, Menasseh ben Israel landed in London. After his arrival he presented to Oliver Cromwell, then the strong man of England, a memorandum in which he refuted the prejudices against the Jews and pointed out the advantages that England could derive from granting them permission to resettle in England and live according to the commands of their religion. Cromwell sponsored this petition warmly, but the British clergy and the wealthy merchants, who were afraid of competition, did everything in their power to prevent its realization. In order to clear his brethren from the flood of false accusations brought up by their enemies, Menasseh ben Israel wrote his famous "Salvation of the Jews," in which he praised the faith and courage of the Jewish people throughout their history.
Menasseh ben Israel succeeded eventually. Cromwell granted many individual Jews the right to settle in London. Menasseh himself was honored by the British Protector and sent off with a farewell present of an annual stipend of 100 Sterling pounds. However, on the way back to Amsterdam, this great defender of the Jewish faith and the Jewish people died. He was laid to rest at the Jewish cemetery in Amsterdam.
Henricus Laurentius, whose name appears in Latin at the bottom of the title page, financed all the Bibles printed by Menasseh at this time, as well as this Book of Psalms. He had previously printed some Hebrew lexicographical works in Franeker, and was the first of several non-Jews who invested in the Hebrew book trade. 

3 image(s)

sub-set tree:

Name/Title
Tehillim | Unknown
Object Detail
Monument Setting
Unknown
Date
1646
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Historical Origin
Unknown
Community type
Unknown |
Congregation
Unknown
Location
Unknown |
Site
Unknown
School/Style
Unknown|
Period
Unknown
Period Detail
Documentation / Research project
Unknown
Material/Technique
Paper, Ink, Letterpress, Woodcut
Material Stucture
Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Density
Colors
Construction material
Measurements
Height
10.8 cm
Length
Width
7.7 cm
Depth
2.4 cm
Circumference
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Weight
Axis
Panel Measurements
Iconographical Subject
Unknown |
Condition
Extant
Documented by CJA
Surveyed by CJA
Present Usage
Present Usage Details
Condition of Building Fabric
Architectural Significance type
Historical significance: Event/Period
Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
Historical significance: Person
Architectural Significance: Style
Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
Significance Rating
Languages of inscription
Unknown
Type of grave
Unknown
0
Ornamentation
Custom
Contents
Codicology
Scribes
Script
Number of Lines
Ruling
Pricking
Quires
Catchwords
Hebrew Numeration
Blank Leaves
Direction/Location
Façade (main)
Endivances
Location of Torah Ark
Location of Apse
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Location of Reader's Desk
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Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
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Colophon
Scribal Notes
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Group
Group
Group
Group
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Summary and Remarks
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History/Provenance
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Short Name
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Page
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Computer Reconstruction
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Negative/Photo. No.