Jewish Books and their Readers

Aspects of the Intellectual Life of Christians and Jews in Early Modern Europe


Jewish Books and their Readers discusses the transformative effect of the circulation and readership of sacred and secular texts written by Jews on Christian as well as Jewish readers in early modern Europe. Its twelve essays challenge traditional paradigms of Christian Hebraism and undermine simplistic visions of the unchanging nature of Jewish cultural life.They ask what constituted a ‘Jewish’ book: how it was presented, disseminated, and understood within both Jewish and Christian environments (and how its meanings were contested), and what effect such understanding had on contemporary views of Jews and their intellectual heritage. They demonstrate how the involvement of Christians in the production and dissemination of Jewish books played a role in the shaping of the intellectual life of Jews and Christians.

Contributors are: Michela Andreatta, Andrew Berns, Theodor Dunkelgrün, Federica Francesconi, Anthony Grafton Alessandro Guetta, William Horbury, Yosef Kaplan, Scott Mandelbrote, Piet van Boxel, Joanna Weinberg Benjamin Williams.
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Biographical Note

Scott Mandelbrote is Fellow, Director of Studies in History, and Perne and Ward Librarian at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge. His publications include The Garden, the Ark, the Tower, the Temple (with Jim Bennett; Oxford, 1998) and Nature and Scripture in the Abrahamic Religions (edited with Jitse van der Meer; Leiden, 2008).

Joanna Weinberg, Ph.D. (1982) is Professor of Early Modern Jewish History and Rabbinics at the University of Oxford. With Anthony Grafton she published “I have always loved the Holy Tongue”: Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Learning (Cambridge, Mass., 2011), and with Michael Fishbane she edited and contributed to Midrash Unbound. Transformations and Innovations (Oxford, 2013).

Review Quotes

"This hugely impressive collection showcases the wide range and high quality of research that is currently being undertaken into the relationship between Christian and Jewish intellectual culture, and Christianity and Judaism more generally, during the early modern period. In their introduction, Mandelbrote and Weinberg emphasise the limitations inherent in the term ‘Christian Hebraism’ and the need for an approach that does justice to the complex set of interactions involved, which combined elements of appropriation, collaboration and competition, and varied widely across different cultural contexts. The contributions published here represent an important first step towards developing such an approach." Mark Taplin, in: Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 69.2 (2018).

Table of contents


Notes on Contributors
Scott Mandelbrote and Joanna Weinberg

Part One - Manuscript, Print and the Jewish Bible
The Letter of Aristeas: Three Phases in the Readership of a Jewish Text
Scott Mandelbrote
Antonio Brucioli and the Jewish Italian Versions of the Bible
Alessandro Guetta

Part Two - Censorship and the Regulation of Readers
Hebrew Books and Censorship in Sixteenth-Century Italy
Piet van Boxel
Illustrious Rabbis Facing the Italian Inquisition: Accommodating Censorship in Seventeenth-Century Italy
Federica Francesconi

Part Three - Jewish Texts in Christian Hands
Petrus Galatinus and Jean Thenaud on the Talmud and the Toledot Yeshu
William Horbury
Crossroads in Hebraism: Johann Buxtorf gives a Hebrew Lesson to Philippe Duplessis-Mornay
Joanna Weinberg
‘Pandects of the Jews’: A French, Swiss and Italian Prelude to John Selden
Anthony Grafton

Part Four - Antiquarianism and the Expansion of Knowledge
Ulisse Aldrovandi and the Role of Hebrew in Natural Philosophy in Early Modern Italy
Andrew D. Berns
The Humanist Discovery of Hebrew Epistolography
Theodor Dunkelgrün
Collecting Hebrew Epitaphs in the Early Modern Age: The Christian Hebraist as Antiquarian
Michela Andreatta

Part Five - The Multiplicity of Texts and the Multiplicity of Readers
More than one way to read a Midrash: The Bodleian Copy of Bomberg’s Midrash Rabbah
Benjamin Williams
Spanish Readings of Amsterdam’s Seventeenth-Century Sephardim
Yosef Kaplan

Selected Bibliography of Secondary Sources


All interested in the history of Jewish-Christian relations, Hebraism, early modern scholarship and intellectual history, book history and censorship.