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, 5605 [1845-46]. 8vo, 5 volumes. (8 7/8 x 5 1/2 inches). Hebrew and English text on facing pages. Each volume inscribed at the head of the English-language title "To my beloved wife from her affectionate husband," the first volume with a later family annotation.
Contemporary purple morocco, spine in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in gilt in the second and fourth, repeating gilt decoration in others, marbled edges, marbled endpapers.
Provenance: Solomon Nunes Carvalho (each cover stamped in gilt)
Rare large-paper association copy of the first Jewish translation of the Pentateuch into English.
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 copy with provenance to Solomon Nunes Carvalho, who was a noted American painter, photographer, writer, and inventor, best known for traveling with John C. Fremont on his fifth expedition through Kansas, Colorado and Utah. He published an account of that journey titled "Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West; with Colonel Fremont's Last Expedition" (1860) and was considered a pioneer in travel photography. Isaac Leeser, the hazzan of Congregation K.K. Mikveh Israel, married Carvalho and his wife, Sarah Miriam Solis, on October 15, 1845 in Philadelphia, where Carvalho's father had a workshop.
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.