Amsterdam: David de Castro Tartas, 5430 . First Portuguese Edition. Hardcover. Square octavo. 7 3/4" x 6 1/5". [1 blank leaf], 1-4 leaves, [2 leaves], 5-8 leaves, 9-16pp, 17-23 leaves, [1 leaf], 24-438pp, [2 blank leaves]. Contemporary speckled calf boards with gilt-stamped lettering on the front cover. Spine with gilt tooling, raised bands and a small handwritten paper label. Edges of the book block in red.
This is the first Portuguese translation of Bahya ibn Paquda influential treatise of the ethical teachings of Judaism, "Chovot Ha-Levavot", original written In Judeo-Arabic, in Spain, circa 1040. This translation into Portuguese was done by Samuel ben Isaac Abaz, itself taken from the original 12th-century translation into Hebrew by Judah ben Saul ibn Tibbon. During the 17th century Amsterdam became is significant center of Jewish printing to serve members of the city's then sizable Sephardic community. A significant portion of the community would have been ex-Marranos (Jews, who had outwardly converted to Catholicism during the inquisition in Spain, who then immigrated and were able to reestablished their Jewish identity), and thus were unable to read Hebrew, hence the publication of Jewish works in vernacular Spanish and/or Portuguese (as is the case here).
As stated by the author in the introduction: "“The Torah is divided into two parts - the duties to be performed by the organs (chovot ha`evarim) and the duties of the heart (chovot halev), namely those belonging to human conscience. The majority of rabbis pay primary attention to the outward observance of the Law, often without regard to the ideas and sentiments embodied within it”. Rabbi Bahya strives to examine the later, the inner spiritual life and ethical foundations of Judaism.
The work starts off with a commemorative prayer for the publishing of the work, including text in Hebrew and Portuguese. This is followed by initial sections including three separate prologues, one from the Portuguese translator, one from ibn Tibbon the Hebrew translator, and the third is the contents of the original prologue written by ibn Paquda himself, all in Portuguese. Included in the book are sections of approbations, the first from Sephardic Rabbis of the Amsterdam Jewish community, written in Portuguese, and a second from Rabbis in Hamburg, written in Hebrew. Also included is an errata sheet. The main text includes decorative woodcut initials and tail pieces. Printed marginal notes throughout. Text in Portuguese.
Binding with some light rubbing to extremities. Head and tail of spine lightly chipped. Covers with some scratches and light abrasions. Interior with minor to light sporadic water stains and/or smudges throughout the text. Leaves 5-7 each repaired with tissue along the top edge. Pages 357-398 with small worm holes at the bottom corner, with text almost entirely unaffected. Light pencil notes on the interior back cover. Book block tight overall. Binding in very good-, interior in very good condition overall. vg- to vg. Item #44218
Alternate title: *חובת הלבבות
Rabbi Samuel ben Isaac Abaz (died 1691) was a Dutch Sephardic Rabbi of Portuguese origin.