Early Modern Italian Jewish Ghetto Archive at Johns Hopkins

A couple of years ago, the Special Collections of the Sheridan Libraries Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University acquired a fascinating archive of printed and scribal material relating mainly to the Jewish community in Ferrara in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. We will have a look at this material in May for the second conference of our project. For a short presentation of the collection click here.

Many thanks to the Virginia Fox Stern Center for the History of the Book in the Renaissance and the Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center of the Sheridan Libraries (Johns Hopkins University) for having co-sponsored the conference on State Building and Minorities: Jews in Italy (College Park and Baltimore, May 5–7, 2019).early modern italian jewish ghetto archive at johns hopkins

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Il Sabathai overo il finto Messia degli Ebrei

In 1669 an Italian biography of Sabbatai Zevi was published in Viterbo: Il Sabathai overo il finto Messia degli Ebrei, che nell’anno 1666 si dichiarò Maumettano in Costantinopoli (“Sabathai that is the fake Messiah of the Jews, who in 1666 declared himself Mohammedan in Constantinople”) The biography is in the form of an anonymous letter from Constantinople, dated December 15, 1666. The narrative of Sabbatai’s vicessitudes, despite a number of flaws, is still relatively accurate and detailed. After giving an account of his conversion, a long section of the report discusses the relations between Christianity and Islam. The text, printed at the press of Pietro Martinelli, is preceded by a dedicatory letter from the bookseller-publisher Carlo Alfano to Giulio Platoni, the diplomatic representative of the Duke of Parma in Rome (the frontispiece bears the Platoni family coat of arms). The same biography was republished in 1671 “in Viterbo, and again in Naples” for “Gio. Francesco Paci” (a Neapolitan printer)” at the instance of Massari and Parrino (publishers-booksellers of Naples). The text was preceded by a dedicatory letter by the publisher Domenico Antonio Parrino to Giorgio Cherbler, possibly a merchant in Naples. For more information on this biography and on several manuscript versions of it see: Stefano Villani, “Between Information and Proselytism: Seventeenth-Century Italian Texts on Sabbatai Zevi, their Various Editions and their Circulation, in Print and Manuscript,” in DAAT: A Journal of Jewish Philosophy & Kabbalah 82 (2016), LXXXVII-CIII (on-line on Academia and on Research Gate).

Letter sent from Constantinople to Rome about the new Messiah of the Jews

Our flyer for the conference on “Sabbateanism in the Mediterranean” features the frontispiece image from a pamphlet published in Italy in 1667: Lettera mandata da Costantinopoli a Roma intorno al nuovo Messia degli Ebrei (Siena, Bologna 1667).

This “Letter sent from Constantinople to Rome about the new Messiah of the Jews” was published in multiple editions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In 1667, the text of this letter was twice translated in Portuguese.

If you want to know more about the many early modern Italian reports on Sabbatai Zvi see: Stefano Villani, “Between Information and Proselytism: Seventeenth-Century Italian Texts on Sabbatai Zevi, their Various Editions and their Circulation, in Print and Manuscript,” in DAAT: A Journal of Jewish Philosophy & Kabbalah 82 (2016), LXXXVII-CIII (on-line on Academia and on Research Gate).

On the Portuguese translations see José Alberto Rodrigues da Silva Tavim, “Revisitando uma carta em português sobre Sabbatai Zvi,” in Sefarad, 67 (2007), 155-190.

This is a list of the known Italian editions of the “Letter sent from Constantinople to Rome about the new Messiah of the Jews”:

1) Lettera mandata da Costantinopoli a Roma intorno al nuovo Messia de gli Ebrei, Siena e Bologna, per Giacomo Monti, 1667. A copy is preserved in the Hebrew Union College Library of Cincinnati.

2) Lettera mandata da Constantinopoli a Roma Intorno al nuovo Messia degli Hebrei, Ronciglione, 1667, 7[ma 8] p., 4°. Copies are preserved in Lucca: B.ta 590.15 and in the Ajuda-Biblioteca Nacional, Lisbona, códice 50- V-36.

3) Lettera mandata da Constantinopoli a Roma dal Residente d’Olanda ad un suo Amico, Intorno al nuovo Messia de gl’Hebrei, Roma, Firenze e Lucca, 1667. A copy is preserved in the National Archives of London, SP 120/116.

4) Relatione curiosissima, & insieme verissima del strano successo del preteso messia degli hebrei, il quale cagiono tanta commotione in quella natione, e termino poi con farsi turco. Aggiontoui vnaltro fatto simile, suceduto poco doppo, Venetia, 1694. Copies are preserved in the Biblioteca del Seminario Teologico of Trento (ggYm 1. 2.7), and in the Biblioteca Marciana of Venice (3 D 297/5).

5) Relatione curiosissima, et insieme verissima del strano successo del preteso Messia degli Hebrei, il quale cagiono tanta commotione in quella natione e termino poi col farsi turco. Lettera mandata da Costantinopoli a Roma intorno al nuovo Messia degli Hebrei dal padre Beccaranda Giesuita, Venezia & Padova, per il Sardi, 1731. A copy is preserved in the Marciana Library of Venice (MISC 1732/13).

6) Relazione curiosissima ed insieme verissima del strano successo del preteso Messia degli Ebrei, il quale cagionò tanta commozione in quella Nazione e terminò poi con farsi turco. Lettera mandata di Constantinopoli a Roma intorno al nuovo Messia degli Ebrei, dal Padre Beccaranda, Gesuita, Venezia ed Parma, Gozzi. A copy is preserved in the Archivio della Comunità ebraica of Mantua filza 109, cartella 51.

 

Antonio Campi’s Portrait of a man pointing at a Hebrew tablet

The image that we put on the front page is the Portrait of a man pointing at a Hebrew tablet by Antonio Campi (Cremona 1524 -1587), displayed at the Robert Simon Fine Arts Gallery in New York. To know more about this extraordinary painting read: Alessandro Cassin, “The Enigma of a Rare Jewish Sixteenth Century Portrait from Cremona,” Printed Matter (Centro Primo Levi Online Monthly, July 10, 2016)

Campi+Portrait+cropped.