Abraham Farissol. Igereth Orchoth Olam [“Epistle on the Paths of the World”].

AUCTION 74 | Thursday, November 09th, 2017 at 1:00
Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters & Graphic Art

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Lot 11

Abraham Farissol. Igereth Orchoth Olam [“Epistle on the Paths of the World”].

First Edition. Table of contents provided after the author’s introduction. Diagrams of the New World and the South-Polar stars on f. 33v. Type ornament border around title and initial word. ff. 36. Trace stained, f. 7 repaired with loss of several words. Modern blind-tooled calf. Housed in custom slip-case. 12mo.


Est: $50,000 - $70,000
First edition of the first Hebrew Americanum. The earliest Hebrew work containing a description of America. First written in 1524, this pioneering work on geography is divided into two parts. The first provides a general description of the earth, its division into climactic zones, continents and individual countries. The second part focuses upon the new discoveries made by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Farissol discusses the location of the Garden of Eden, the Sambatyon River, beyond which dwell the Lost Tribes of Israel, and gives a detailed account of the discoveries of Vasco da Gama and his travels to India.In his chapter on the discovery of America, making this the first Hebrew book to record such, Farissol describes both the land and the people living there, based upon contemporary accounts. He writes; “They do not have a prince nor a ruler, neither laws nor a God, rather, we shall say they behave according to what is natural. They do not own property or possessions as individuals, for everything there is without an owner. Instead, they eat and forge a living for themselves together as one” (f. 33r).Farissol was the Cantor of the Synagogue in Ferrara and a contemporary of Christopher Columbus. He served in the court of Renaissance patron Lorenzo de Medici, which allowed him to be well positioned to learn as much as he could about the newly discovered and explored territories in both the west and east. Farissol’s interest in geography was further spurred by the (likely fictitious) works of the enigmatic adventurer David Reubeni (see Chap. 14). Some have interpreted the author’s interest in the newly discovered lands as a sign of his belief in the imminence of messianic redemption. In addition to his cantorial duties, Farissol wrote a commentary to the Pentateuch and a book of religious polemics, defending Judaism from Christian and Islamic arguments against Judaism.See D. Ruderman, The World of a Renaissance Jew: The Life and Thought of Abraham ben Mordecai Farissol (1981), chap. 11; and André Neher, Jewish Thought and the Scientific Revolution of the Sixteenth Century (1986) pp. 122-135.Celebrated for the shield-like diagram labeled in Hebrew “New Land” this work is the most scarce of American-related Hebrew texts.