Me’or Einayim [Philosophy of History]

AUCTION 16 | Tuesday, June 25th, 2002 at 1:00
Important Hebrew Printed Books and Manuscripts From the Library of the London Beth Din

Back to Catalogue

Lot 76

Me’or Einayim [Philosophy of History]

First Edition. Title within woodcut architectural border. Woodcut diagrams on f.156. This copy with the corrected “mahaduroth” which are in most standard copies together with the rare “Teshuva Le’hasagah” but without “Mahahadurot Shniyot” affixed to very few copies ff.194. Few light stains in places, dark stain on last few leaves, signed by censor on title, previous owners inscription on verso of final leaf, marginal notation on f.88. Recent half-calf marbled boards, gently rubbed at edges. Sm.4to Vinograd, Mantua 138; Mehlman 1327; not in Adams

Mantua: n.p. 1574

Est: $2,000 - $2,500
“The Me’or Einaim became so important that it rendered its author as one of the greatest, or perhaps the very greatest, of Jewish historians who flourished in the seventeen centuries between Josephus and Jost.” S. Baron, Azariah de Rossi’s Attitude to Life in: Studies in Memory of I. Abrahams, (1927) p.12 Azariah de Rossi was a member of an Italian Jewish family that traced its ancestry back to the time of Titus and the destruction of Jerusalem. His controversial Me’or Einaim questioned conventional medieval wisdom and introduced fundamental changes in chronology. De Rossi rehabilitated the works of the Jewish philosopher Philo, who had been ignored by Jewish scholars for almost 1500 years. He exposed the Jossipon as an early medieval compilation based on the works of Josephus, though with much falsification. In the spirit of the Renaissance, de Rossi turned to critical analysis and made use of the Apocrypha and Jewish-Hellenistic sources in his study of ancient Jewish history and texts. Most contentiously, he suggested that Midrashic literature was employed as a stylistic device “to induce a good state of mind among readers,” and thus should not be understood to be literal. Such statements led the Me’or Einaim to be viewed as heresy and it was banned by the Rabbinic authorities upon publication. De Rossi reissued the work the same year, making changes to the offending passages and adding an apologetic post-script. However, some prominent Rabbis decreed youth below the age of 25 should be prevented from consulting the book. De Rossi himself was spared chastisement due to his personal observance of Halachic practice. See Carmilly-Weinberger, pp.210-13; I. Mehlman, Gnuzoth Sepharim, (1976) pp.21-39