JUDAICA, American - BIBLE IN HEBREW and ENGLISH - Isaac LEESER (1806-1868), editor
Torat Ha-Elo-Him ... The Law of God ...
Philadelphia: Printed by C. Sherman for the Editor, 5605 [i.e. 1844-1845]. Five volumes, 8vo. (7 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches). Hebrew and English text on facing pages.
Contemporary black morocco, covers elaborately tooled in gilt, spine gilt with raised bands in six compartments, yellow endpapers, gilt edges, expert repairs to joints and tops of spines.
Provenance: M. Nathans (name in gilt on the upper covers)
The first Jewish translation of the Pentateuch into English: in an elaborate contemporary binding.
More than any other person of his time, Isaac Leeser (1806-1868) envisioned the development of a major center of Jewish culture and religious activity in the United States. He single-handedly provided American Jews with many of the basic religious texts, institutions, and conceptual tools they needed to construct the cultural foundation of what would later emerge as the largest Jewish community in the history of the Jewish people. Printed in 1845, this edition of the Pentateuch in five volumes included a vocalized Hebrew text of each of the Five Books of Moses together with an English translation and notes, as well as the haftarot (prophetic readings). Leeser actually began working on The Law of God in 1838. Among the factors involved in his decision to begin systematically working on a translation was the recent opening of Rebecca Gratz's Sunday School, which met for the first time in March 1838, in Philadelphia, and was desperately in need of appropriate study material. Students were compelled to use the King James Bible for want of a Jewish alternative. Religiously objectionable passages in other texts provided by Protestant organizations were either pasted over or torn out by Gratz's staff. Leeser, who supported the Sunday School and was its chief academic resource person, felt compelled to find more suitable texts for the students. The impetus for Leeser throughout was always his desire to provide the Jews of America with an English text of the Bible that was produced by one of their own and was not tainted by conversionist motivations. This binding is consistent with similar bindings on gift books of the era published and bound by Lippincott. This example with provenance to M. Nathans, likely Moses Nathans (1811-1873), a prominent congregant of Philadelphia's Congregation Mikveh Israel.
Rosenbach 569; Singerman 884; Goldman 7; Lance J. Sussman, "Another Look at Isaac Leeser and the First Jewish Translation of the Bible in the United States," Modern Judaism, Vol. 5, No. 2, Gershom Scholem Memorial Issue. (May, 1985), pp. 159-190.