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May 10, 2022 1:24 pm

Rare Hebrew Book Detailing Discovery of America to be Auctioned in Jerusalem


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Inside “Igeret Orchot Olam.” Photo: Kedem Auction House.

A rare first edition book that is the earliest Hebrew work describing the discovery of the New World will go up for sale at Jerusalem’s Kedem Auction House later this month.

Igeret Orchot Olam,” written by Torah scholar Rabbi Abraham ben Mordechai Farissol and published in 1586 in Venice, contains one of the first known descriptions of America and the sub-Saharan continent. The auction will take place on May 24, with a starting price for the item of $15,000.

“This rare volume is an important historic work that offers a closeup of a world we know little about,” said Meron Eren, CEO and co-founder of Kedem Auction House. “It will make a wonderful addition for the serious collector of rare ancient books.”

The book is divided into two parts, the first of which is a general description of the world, its climate zones, continents and countries. A second part details discoveries made by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, including an account of Vasco da Gama’s travels around the Cape of Good Hope as he journeyed to India. Rabbi Farissol also writes about possible locations for the Garden of Eden , the Sambation River and the Ten Lost Tribes.

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The book’s 29th chapter focuses solely on America, detailing its landscape, geography, mountains, forests and animals, and includes a discussion on the lifestyle of American Indian tribes.

The book features three copper-etched illustrations by Venice artist Anton Balzer, along with commentary by renowned scholars of the era. The title page and several others contain the signature of Ish Ger, an acronym for 17th century Jewish-Italian scholar Rabbi Avraham Yosef Shlomo Graziano. There are also a number of handwritten notations by Rabbi Graziano featuring explanations, additions and revisions.

Rabbi Farissol (ca. 1452 –1526) was born in Avignon, in the south of France, but immigrated at a young age to Italy, where he lived most of his life in Ferrara. He served as a cantor and teacher in the local community, and was praised as a great copyist of manuscripts. “Igeret Orchot Olam” was his most famous work, according to the Kedem Auction House.

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