Bechinath Ha’Olam [“Contemplation of the World.”] With anonymous commentary.

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

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Lot 25

Bechinath Ha’Olam [“Contemplation of the World.”] With anonymous commentary.

Second edition. Text in square Hebrew characters, commentary in cursive rabbinic types Complete in ff. (20). Light staining, mostly marginal. Manuscript cipher on f. 5r; a single phrase (two words) censored on verso of final leaf, stamps removed on opening and closing pages. Modern blind-tooled and paneled calf. Housed in custom slip-case. 4to.


Est: $20,000 - $25,000
Bechinath Ha’Olam is a profound poetic composition on the futility and vanity of the world and the inestimably greater benefits of intellectual and religious pursuits. The author, Yedai’ah ben Avraham Bedersi HaPenini (c.1270-1340) was born in Béziers, Provence (HaBedersi=of Béziers) and skillfully uses florid prose, rich in imagery, to present a combination of philosophic doctrine and religious fervor tempered with a measured level of asceticism and pessimism. His poetic virtuosity was established early in life and in his youth, Yedai’ah composed a poetic prayer of 1,000 words titled "Bakashath HaMemim," every word of which begins with the letter mem. He is also credited with a similar composition, Elef Alfin, every word of which begins with alef, though some attribute the latter poem to Yedaiah’s father, Abraham. In the Bechinath Ha’Olam, his most famous work, Yedai’ah finds consolation in Maimonides’ world of ideas, concluding that the greatest achievement for man is to “perfect one’s understanding and immerse oneself in the grandeur of the idea of God. No power in the world can can break man’s will when he strives toward this exalted goal.” Both the text and the commentary conclude with lavish encomia of Maimonides. It is curious to note that in Italy, where this work was first printed, copies of this edition are preserved in only two collections, Parma and the Vatican. See Treasures of the Valmadonna Trust Library - Otzroth Ya’akov, Incunables no. 13.