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THE FIRST JEWISH TRANSLATION OF THE PENTATEUCH INTO ENGLISH (JUDAICA.) The Law of God. 5 volumes. 12mo, contemporary embossed decorative gilt, minor wear, first backstrip a bit worn; internally clean; all edges textured gilt; inscribed in English and Hebrew on front flyleaf and half-title by Jacob Franklin, 1866. Philadelphia: C. Sherman, 5605 [1845-46]
First edition. This is the first translation of the five books of the Torah by a Jewish translator into English, with text in Hebrew and English on facing pages. Previous editions published by Jews in England had simply utilized the King James translation. The translator was Isaac Leeser (1806-1868), who worked without assistance. In his preface, he apologizes for any errors: "How can it be expected that I should escape, when I have no Jewish compositors, and have necessarily to be often away when the work goes to press?" Despite these obstacles, Leeser doubted that "the precious word of God ever appeared among us in a more beautiful form than the volumes in which I am now engaged." Leeser avoided reliance on earlier English translations, though he made some use of German translations, and noted that "the arrangement is strictly Jewish. My intention was to furnish a book for the service of the Synagogue, both German and Portuguese." Goldman 7; Hills 1273; Rosenbach 569. Provenance: given as a wedding gift in London to Emily Sarah [Davis] by her new father-in-law Jacob Franklin, 12 December 1866. The groom was Lewis Abraham Franklin (1820-1879), who had gone to California in the Gold Rush, living in San Francisco from 1849 to 1855 and then in San Diego until 1860 before returning to England. It would normally be unusual for an American printing to find its way back to England for any reason during this period, but this was an important translation, and the family may have brought it with them after returning from California.
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