Auctioneers of Rare Books, Collectibles and Fine Art

Auction 72: March 16th, 2017

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Lot: 75 CARDOSO, ISAAC (FERNANDO). Las Excelencias de los Hebreos [“The Excellences of the Hebrews.”] FIRST EDITION. Woodcut device on title displaying a hand gathering flowers with the motto: El que me esparsio me recogera ("He who has scattered me will gather me.") Later divisional title with floral device bearing the motto: Ellos Maldiziran y yo Bendizire" ("They shall curse and I shall Bless.") Dedication to the merchant, Jacob de Pinto, one of the wealthiest and most influential Portuguese Jews of 17th-century Amsterdam. pp. (8), 331, (2), 333-431. Browned and lightly worn, single wormhole at extreme upper margin through first third of volume. Contemporary vellum, stained. 4to. Kayserling, 34, Palau 44099.

David de Castro Tartas, Amsterdam: 1679. Est: $6,000 - $9,000

     This famous apology of Judaism was written by the former converso, the physician Fernando (Isaac) Cardoso (1604-81). Born in Trancoso, Portugal, Cardoso was one of the many Portuguese New Christian immigrants who settled in Spain in the early 17th-century. He studied at Salamanca and was accorded the title of "phisico mayor," or court physician by Philip IV. Later, Cardoso practiced as a physician in Madrid, where he reached the highest literary and social circles. Nonetheless, fearing persecution by the Office of the Inquisition, Cardoso fled to Venice and subsequently settled in Verona.
     This comprehensive apologetic work contains numerous references to the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition, anti-Jewish Iberian authors and the history of 16th and 17th century Marranos in Spain and Portugal - with many first-hand anecdotes. It is divided into ten parts, each with ten chapters. Part I extols the "excelelcias", or admirable qualities of the Jewish people. In part II, Cardoso refutes ten "calunias" slanders against the Jews. Passionate and eloquent, the work is not only an erudite defense of Jewry as a whole, but also a justification of Cardoso's own choice to live as a Jew.
     The work has been praised as "a masterpiece of Jewish anti-defamation, perhaps the most striking since Josephus's Contra Apionem." See Y. H. Yerushalmi, From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto: Isaac Cardoso, A Study in Marranism and Jewish Apologetics (1971); see also Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, Treasures of Jewish Booklore (1995) p. 21.

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