AN IMPORTANT PIECE OF HISTORICAL JUDAICA: THE “JEWISH OATH,” 1846 VENETIAN PRINTING
JUDAICA. [Jewish Oath] Imperiale Regio Governo di Venezia. Notificazione… (Venice): per Francesco Andreola dell I. R. Governo, della Provincia, e dell' I. R. Marina, (1846-47). Folio (measures approximately 11 inches by 16 inches), modern Folio (11 by 16 inches), modern buff boards; pp. (4). $5000.
Scarce 1846 Venetian printing of the oath to be taken by Jews as litigants in the courts, intended to humiliate and to emphasize their alleged perjurous nature, a striking example of a type of discriminatory oath imposed on Jews across the European continent.
In medieval Europe, law courts customarily compelled Jews when in litigation with Gentiles to swear a special oath "more judaico" (after the fashion of the Jews). "Both the text of the oath and the symbolic ritual involved in taking it were intended to give it the explicit character of a self-imposed curse, entailing detailed punishment if it were falsely taken. The ceremonial and symbolism were intended to strengthen and make vivid the curse as well as to stress the distrust of the Jew and the wish to humiliate him that were at the root of this special oath ritual… Yet in spite of these extravagant aspects of both ceremonial and formula, fundamentally the oath more judaico was patterned after Jewish religious law" (Encyclopaedia Judaica, 11th ed., XII: 1301-1303). Judges might preface the oath with rituals of their own devising, such as forcing Jews to wear a crown of thorns or to stand on top of a piece of pigskin. Up until the 18th century, most courts of Europe employed some form of this oath, and in some towns in Germany and Austria it persisted longer. The present document is an official public notification that the oath remains in use "in all the countries of the Imperial Austrian Monarchy in which the General Civil Code of June 1, 1811, is operative" (Venice at that time formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The instructions on administering the oath are dated October 1, 1846, and the first page is dated January 4, 1847. The date is of some interest, since the "Jewish Oath" had been abolished in Austria on August 18, 1846 (Austria preceded the other German territories in this respect). The timing suggests that Venice was quick to affirm, in the face of the repeal of the Jewish Oath in Austria, that it was still in force in Venice. Included with the oath is a full English translation, typewritten, bound in paper wrappers and held to the inside cover with a vellum strip. Four typeset folio pages in total, first page with engraved Hapsburg double-eagle.