Bible (Tanakh)

Romeyn de Hooghe (illustrations; Amsterdam, 1645 – Haarlem, 1708)

Amsterdam: Menasseh ben Israel, 1631; engravings incorporated after 1712

Hebrew book, 17 x 12.2 x 5.1 cm

Bible (Tanakh), Amsterdam: Menasseh ben Israel, 1631; engravings incorporated after 1712

Bible (Tanakh), Amsterdam: Menasseh ben Israel, 1631; engravings incorporated after 1712

This printed Hebrew Bible was completed on 5 Adar 5391 (7 February 1731) by Menasseh ben Israel, founder of the first Hebrew printing works in Amsterdam in 1726. He was born into a family of Marranos, Iberian Jews who converted to Christianity to avoid the expulsions from 1492 to 1496. His family went to Amsterdam in 1613 to escape the Inquisition and reembraced Judaism. In 1622, Menasseh was already an eminent figure in the Spanish and Portuguese community and became preacher of the Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace) community. A rabbi and Kabbalist, he played a leading diplomatic role in 1656 in persuading Cromwell to readmit the Jews, banished from England since 1290. A printer as much as an author and translator, he aimed in his publications to facilitate the Marranos’ return to a Judaism that they had almost entirely forgotten.

This Hebrew Bible comprises the twenty-four books of the canonical collection of Hebrew scriptures orTanakh (acronym of Torah Nevi’im Ketuvim): the five books of the Pentateuch, the Prophets and the Hagiographies. Its seventy-four plates were engraved by Romeyn de Hooghe for Story of the Old and New Testament by Pastor Jacques Basnage de Beauval (Rouen, 1653 – The Hague, 1723), published in Amsterdam by Jacques Lindenberg in 1704. They were therefore incorporated into this Bible more than seventy years after it was printed, very probably at the request of a Jewish art collector and bibliophile. The fondness for imagery omnipresent in Dutch society spread to Jewish communities. The scenes are accompanied by cartouches indicating the verses illustrated in Latin, but the book’s owner “Judaicized” some of them by adding the corresponding Hebrew text in handwriting in the margin.

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