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Bidding Information
Lot #    12903
Auction End Date    1/24/2006 10:06:00 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Capitula cantici (Pirkei Eliyahu)
Title (Hebrew)    פרקי אליה
Author    R. Elijah b. Asher ha-Levi Ashkenazi
City    Basle
Publisher    Johannis Froben
Publication Date    1527
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   Second edition. [98] ff., 155:100 mm., nice crisp margins, light age staining, old hand on many ff. A very good copy bound in full vellum boards.
   Hebrew grammar written partly in verse, on the grammar of the Hebrew letters and vowels; it is a follow-up of Ha-Bahur (Isny, 1542)and completes the study in the latter.

R. Elijah b. Asher ha-Levi Ashkenazi (Elijah Bahur; Elijah Levita, 1468 or 1469–1549), Hebrew philologist, grammarian, and lexicographer. Born in Neustadt, near Nuremberg, Germany, he spent most of his life in Italy (Padua, Venice, and Rome) where he taught Hebrew language and grammar. His pupils included Christian humanists, from whom he learned Greek and Latin. Among his pupils he counted Sebastian Muenster, who translated Elijah's works into Latin, and Cardinal Egidius da Viterbo in whose home in Rome Elijah stayed for 13 years (1514–27). Before entering the house of Egidius da Viterbo, Elijah also wrote secular literary works in Yiddish. To this period belongs Bovo d'Antona (Isny, 1541, but believed to have first been published in 1507) which became known as the Bove-Bukh in later editions. It is an adaptation in verse of one of the Italian versions of an Anglo-French romance, Sir Bevis of Hampton. His Paris un Viene (apparently written in 1508/09; the unicum with the beginning missing preserved at Trinity College, Cambridge, was printed at Verona in 1594) is evidently based on a medieval romance. Elijah also adapted two love epics from Italian sources; the first is based on a courtly love legend, and the second is an abridged and free adaptation of an Italian-Provencal literary work, written in ottava rima (a stanza of eight iambic lines containing three rhymes) which Elijah introduced into Yiddish literature. Elijah instructed da Viterbo principally in the Kabbalah and translated some manuscripts for him (e.g., the commentary of R. Eliezer of Worms on Sefer Yezirah). Georges de Selve, another of his pupils, who later became the French ambassador to Venice invited him, in the name of King Francis I, to lecture in Hebrew at the CollIge royal in Paris. He declined the offer for two reasons: he neither wanted to be the only Jew allowed to live in France, nor did he feel that under such conditions he could observe the religious precepts.

In 1527, when Rome was sacked by the armies of Charles V, Elijah lost all his property (including some manuscripts). He returned to Venice, where he earned his livelihood as a proofreader in the publishing house of Daniel Bomberg (1529 to the late 1530s), and remained here, except for an absence of four years (1539/40–44). During that period, he supervised Fagius's press at Isny (in Wuerttemberg), and later accompanied him to Constance (1542–43). At Isny, Levita printed some of his most important works. The rabbis looked with disfavor on Elijah's teaching gentiles the Torah. Elijah rejoined with the claim that earlier Christian Hebraists had upheld Christian and Jewish Hebrew scholarship resulting in a tendency, on their part, to defend Jews and the Jewish community also from physical violence. Two of Elijah's grandchildren, however, converted to Christianity and helped those who calumniated the Talmud. One of them, baptized as Vittorio Eliano, became an ecclesiastical censor of Hebrew books and had some part in the Cremona (Christian) edition of the Zohar (1558–59). Elijah, despite false allegations brought against him to the contrary, remained an observant Jew.

Paragraph 2    עברית ולאטינית, עמוד מול עמוד.
   Yudlov, Mehlman Collection 1866; Vin Basle 29; CD-EPI 0110322; EJ; Joseph Prijs, Die Basler Hebraeischen Drucke 27
Associated Images
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Listing Classification
16th Century:    Checked
Holland:    Checked
Other:    Grammar
Language:    Hebrew, Latin
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica