Discourses on the Jewish Religion


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LEESER, Isaac. Discourses on the Jewish Religion. Philadelphia: for the Author by Sherman & Co., 5627 [1867]. Ten volumes. Octavo, original black cloth. Housed in matching custom cloth slipcases.

First edition of Leeser's collected sermons, greatly expanded from the two volumes published in 1837, with a third volume published in 1841, to ten volumes.

Rabbi, editor and author, Leeser was one of the foremost American Jews in 19th-century America. "Leeser's accomplishments on the American Jewish scene were monumental. He was a pioneer in elevating the station of the Jewish religious leader in the United States. His numerous publications brought inspiration and enlightenment to thousands of American Jews" (ANB). Central to his legacy are the more than 250 sermons that he delivered over his lifetime. In 1837 he issued Discourses, a two-volume anthology of 52 sermons—the first anthology of sermons by an American Jew. From this time forward, the sermon increasingly became accepted as a central feature of the synagogue service; eloquence and oratory skills became important qualifications for any rabbi seeking an American pulpit.

Leeser issued a third volume in 1841. By this time, however, he had been propelled to national leadership of the American Jewish community and his many communal and literary responsibilities no doubt kept him from publishing further volumes for more than two decades. It was not until the final year of his life that he began to edit a third series of sermons for publication. Ignoring the sufferings of illness, he prepared six volumes before finally succumbing to cancer. A seventh volume was edited posthumously by his colleague, Judge Mayer Sulzberger. The seven volumes of the third series were issued together with a reissue of the first three volumes to form the present set. Leeser initially delivered sermons for the edification and inspiration of his contemporary coreligionists. But his decision to print the ten-volume anthology was additionally motivated by the recognition that it would serve as his lasting legacy for the "new generation that has sprung up… I hope that the heart of the vast majority of Israelites will still respond to the instructions laid before them now, as was the case three decennia ago, when I was perhaps the only Jewish public speaker in America" (Vol. I, p. vii). Sulzberger reflected on the greater implications of Leeser's monumental work: "[This work] indeed will be one of the main sources for a history of Judaism in our country… Every Jew who is interested in the events that have befallen his coreligionists here, during the last forty years… will be glad to possess the work." Volumes I and II of Leeser's Discourses, originally delivered as sermons to his congregation, were first published in 1837, with a third volume following in 1841. This is the first complete edition of his Discourses, in ten volumes.

A few corners bumped, light expert restoration to original cloth bindings. A very good set in the original cloth.

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