AN EXCEPTIONAL JUDAICA RARITY: THE EARLIEST HEBREW PRAYER BOOK TRANSLATED INTO GREEK, 1885
(JUDAICA-LITURGY). Seder Tefilot-Kathimerinai Proseukhsi. [According to Sephardic Rite]. Corfu: by the translator, 1885. Octavo, contemporary half red cloth. Housed in custom half morocco clamshell box. $7200.
First and only edition of the earliest Hebrew prayer book to be translated into Greek, one of only 14 Hebrew items printed on the Greek island of Corfu.
The Jewish community of Greece dates back to the 4th century B.C. A combination of Romaniote Jews and Sephardic Jews, Greece's Jewish community has long been a powerful force in the culture and economy of the country. Greek Jews played a part in the development of Christianity, thrived in trade during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, and were a major part of the intellectual life of the country during all eras. The Holocaust proved devastating to the Greek community—81% of the Jewish population was murdered, many at Auschwitz. In recent years, the Jewish community has held steady at about 5,000 members, many committed to enhancing the visibility of Greek Jews, especially through the redevelopment of a Jewish Studies program as Thessaloniki's Aristotle University. Thus, this prayer book, translated into Greek, would have been both an extremely useful educational tool as well as an important statement of national pride. Corfu, the city of publication, was a somewhat difficult place for Jews within the Greek world. Not only did it switch hands between various antisemitic powers (notably the Venetians, who created ghettos, and the British, who removed voting rights from Jews), but it also endured homegrown antisemitism as in the case of an 1891 pogrom that forced many Jews to flee the island. The majority of the 14 Hebrew items printed on Corfu were broadsides, and all were print runs of very few copies. A.M. Habermann, author of "The Hebrew Press in Corfu," had not seen a copy of this title and only knew of it through bookseller David Frankel's Catalogue of Greek Prints, No. 32 (Perakim Be'toldoth Ha'madphisim Ha'ivri'im (1978), 337-42, No. 6). Translated by Joseph Nahmuli with editorial assistance of Abraham Yizchaki. Text in the original Hebrew, with Greek translation facing; separate Greek and Hebrew title pages.
Scattered worming in places, chiefly marginal, contemporary binding rubbed. An extremely good copy of this very scarce item.