AUCTION 75 | Thursday, March 08th, 2018 at 1:00 PM
Auction of Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Antiquities, Ceremonial Objects & Graphic Art

Back to Catalogue View 3D Catalogue Download Catalogue

Lot 95


Benjamin Colman. A Discourse had in the College-Hall at Cambridge, March 27th, 1722. Before the Baptism of R. Judah Monis… to which are added Three Discourses written by Mr. Monis himself, The Truth; The Whole Truth; and, Nothing but the Truth. One of which was deliver’d by him at his Baptism. pp. (4), 27; (2), iv, vi, 36; (2), 40; (2), 26. Ex-library, browned and stained, lower blank corner of p. 27 torn, expert repair to final leaf with portion supplied in facsimile. Contemporary calf, rubbed, rebacked. 12mo. Rosenbach 17-22; Singerman 15-18; Evans 2324; Sabin 14477

Boston: Daniel Henchman 1722

Est: $4,000 - $6,000
Judah Monis (1683-1764), author of the first Hebrew textbook published in North America (“A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue,” Boston, 1735), was the first Jew to receive a college degree in America. Born in Italy to a family of former Portuguese conversos and educated at Jewish academies in Italy and Holland, Monis emigrated to New York around 1715, where he established a small store and taught Hebrew to both Christians and Jews. By 1720 he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard College. At that time, all Harvard undergraduates were required to study Hebrew. The assumption being that no Christian gentleman could be considered truly educated unless he could read the Bible in its original language. Monis was approved by the college as instructor of the Hebrew language - Harvard’s first - but not as a Jew, since Harvard required all its faculty to be professing Christians. One month before assuming his post at Harvard, Monis converted to Christianity - a conversion that attracted widespread notoriety. Local Christian clergy expressed concern that Harvard’s requirement that all its faculty members be of the Christian faith had in turn pushed Monis to an insincere conversion. In the present sermons Monis defended his conversion arguing he left Judaism out of religious conviction and not opportunism. Monis’s life presents a particular case of how a Jew was viewed in colonial America’s public life. He came to Cambridge, which had no Jewish institutions, to teach Hebrew to Christian students. Having chosen to leave a mature Jewish community in New York City he entered Harvard as a Christian. But the Christian community looked on him with skepticism. Both the Cambridge First Church as well as Harvard College records refer to Monis as “the converted Jew,” “the converted rabbi;” and “the Christianized Jew.”