Amsterdam: Samuel Abarbanel Soeiro (Samuel Ben Israel), 1651. First edition. Hardcover. Octavo. 7 3/4 x 6 1/4". [8 leaves] 174 leaves, [10 leaves in Latin]. Rebound in modern dark leather boards with decorative blind-stamped ruling and tooling on the cover. Spine with gilt lettering and tooling. Raised bands. The tail of the spine incorrectly lists the date as 1652. Woodcut illustrated title page in Hebrew. Lacking the scarce portait frontispiece and the rare hascamah leaf following the title, (9th leaf) with encomia by Benjamin Musaphia on the recto side and by Samuel, son of Dr. Abraham Jessurun de Mercado on the verso side, as well as an anonymous Hebrew accolade most likely the work of Gerbrandus Ansloo. With a few decorative initials in the Latin section. The first edition of Menasheh ben Israel's kabbalistic treatise on souls and reincarnation. The work was published by his son Samuel ben Israel, six year before the untimely death of both him and his father in 1657 and is considered among the last major works by Menasseh ben Israel to be published. Years earlier in 1626, the famed rabbi, scholar and Jewish community leader, had established the first Hebrew-langauge printing press in Amsterdam. The the main contents of the Hebrew are divided into four parts, each with decorative headpieces. Following the main text, there is a four page extensive section of errata and a poetic postscript written by Jacob ben Aaron Sasportas, the famed rabbi who was a good friend and colleague of ben Israel. The publication concludes with a section of 8 unpaginated leaves in Latin, reading from left to right, with a seperate title page. These leaves contain the title, letter of dedication and chapter summaries. Text in Hebrew and Latin. Hebrew title page with abrasion, Leaf 49 of the main pagination has a small crease and closed tear along the side edge. There is some light creasing and closed tears the corners and edges of a few pages throughout. Some worming to the top and bottom margins, with text mostly unaffected. Some light to moderate water staining throughout. Binding in fine, interior in good+ to very good- condition overall. g+ to fine. Item #44653
Idiosyncratic collection of biblical and supernatural accounts drawn from Jewish, Christian, Islamic and classical sources, selected to support Plato’s idea of an eternal soul. Born a crypto-Jew in Portugal, ben Israel compiled an extensive inventory of demons, witches, dybbuks, incubi, etc. whose transmigrations prove the soul is independent of the body. The import of prophetic dreams, bird signs, holy names, astrology, amulets and physical maladies are covered in the treatise, which posits three requirements for proof: tradition, logic and sensory experience. He affirms free will, a providential god and the resurrection of the dead in messianic times. He established Amsterdam’s first Hebrew- language press and published works for Christians in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin. Later, he helped convince Cromwell to allow the return of Jews to England.
Alternate title: Nishmat Hayyim
Hebrew title: ספר נשמת היים
References: KAYSERLING (1890). p.69.
See also: Joseph Dan: "Manasseh ben Israel's Nishmat Hayyim and the Concept of Evil in Seventeenth-Century Jewish Thought" In Joseph Dan: Jewish Mysticism - 4 volumes, The Modern Period, pp.349-366.