Hagenau: Thomas Anshelm, 1518. First edition. Three parts, quarto. a-t4 v-x6 (=88 leaves); LXXXIII (leaves XLI-XLIV incorrectly numbered XXXIX, L, XLI, LII respectively), ff., full-page woodcut of the author's arms, bordered in black, at title; half-page printer's vignette at colophon; Hebrew poem printed in alternating lines of red and black (v5 verso-v6 verso); four-voice musical scores for the cantillations (x1 recto-x5 verso). Text in Latin, with copious passages in vocalized Hebrew throughout, occasional passages in Greek. Eighteenth-century buntpapier boards, backed in sheep; spine tooled in gilt, with morocco lettering pieces. Mild wear to boards at extremities. Occasional light, mostly marginal smudges or stains; old library stamps (Seminars Fraenckelsche Stiftung) at title and colophon leaves, else text clean and fresh throughout.
First edition of this seminal treatise on the pronunciation of Hebrew, and the rhetorical and musical indications (cantillation tropes) of the medieval masoretic diacritical system (Heb. = te'amim) which supplements the ancient Hebrew biblical text. Dedicated to the author's old patron, Cardinal Adriano Castellesi, De Accentibus is the first publication dealing with the early history of Jewish music, a field that would grow significantly throughout the early modern period: "Renaissance humanists were intensely interested in the ancient languages, and scriptural cantillation was transcribed by many Christian scholars; Johannes Reuchlin, in 1518 was the first of several 16th- and 17th-century Hebraists. Increasing numbers of philologists and music historians attempted to reconstruct ancient Hebrew melodies; among them may be mentioned the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (Musurgia universalis, Rome, 1650), Benedetto Marcello, who experimented in composition using orally transmitted Hebrew melodies (Estro poetico-armonico, Venice 1724-6), and Padre Martini, who undertook the first serious and comprehensive study of the music of the Bible (Storia della musica, Bologna, 1761-81)" (Grove Dictionary). "Caspar Amman [1450-1524] was one of the first Christian humanists to grasp the importance of the te'amim to the understanding of Biblical Hebrew. His Hebrew grammar, never pubished, contained a transcription into Western notation of the melodies of the te'amim. Amman's source for the notation was Johannes Boeschenstein" (Jacobson). While the notations which appear in the present work have been described as "the earliest known notation of Pentateuch cantillation, Western Ashkenazi" (EJ 11:1100), and were likely supplied to Reuchlin by Boeschenstein, the notations of the te'amim which appear in Amman's manuscript may in fact precede Reuchlin's printed version by a few years. Apart from Reuchlin, at least fifteen other Christian scholars featured "notations of masoretic cantillation in works on Judaistic subjects and later on also in chapters on the 'Music of the Hebrews' in histories of music. As a rule, they copied and recopied the specimens from their predecessors, so that the total stock of notated documention rises very slowly" (EJ 12:558).
After a detailed discussion of the cantillation marks in the third book appears a striking Hebrew text which is printed in alternating lines of red and black. In order to provide a text which displays all of the cantillation tropes in a short space, Reuchlin has made a pastiche of biblical phrases, sometimes just selecting a few words in sequence, from the following verses: 2 Chron. 24:5 - 1 Kings 8:27 - Exod. 33:14 - Num. 32:42 - Gen. 5:29 - Gen. 19:16 - Gen. 27:25 - Prov. 6:22 - Lev. 8:23. The red text provides the names of the cantillation marks which appear in the black text of the biblical quotations immediately below. The musical scores at the end contain a Pentateuchal trope set for four voices (discantus, altus, tenor and bassus) by Christoph Schilling of Lucerne. "The motives are given in the tenor part, while the discantus, altus, and bassus parts are mere harmonizations in contemporary art music style, added arbitrarily to enhance the presentation" (EJ 11:1100, note). The brief Latin poem preceding the colophon was composed by Johann Setzer.
The renowned jurist, statesman and humanist savant, Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522) began his Hebrew studies as early as 1473 in Paris. His interest was further stimulated by a meeting with Pico della Mirandola in 1490 and a growing interest in the Jewish mystical tradition (Kabbalah). Among his Jewish Hebrew instructors were Jacob ben Jehiel Loans, physician to Emperor Frederick III, and the Italian biblical exegete and physician, Obadiah Sforno. Reuchlin was professor of Greek and Hebrew at Ingolstadt and Tübingen. "His lectures drew vast numbers of students and his pupils included the Hebraists Johann Forster, Sebastian Muenster, and Philipp Melanchthon" (Enc. Jud. 14:108). Reuchlin was involved throughout much of the last decade of his life in the so-called "Battle of the Books." He strongly opposed the banning of Jewish books, including the Talmud, but met stern resistance from Jacob Hoogstraaten and the Domincans of Köln. After being accused of heresy by Hoogstraaten, Reuchlin was eventually acquitted by the bishop of Speyer in 1514, but only after appealing to Pope Leo X, and seeking the good offices of the papal physician, and professing Jew, Bonet de Lattes. In addition to the present work, Reuchin prepared the first important Christian work on Hebrew philology, De Rudimentis Hebraicis (1506), based primarily on the Sefer ha-Shorashim of David Kimhi.
Provenance and annotations: A few old corrections in manuscript appear in the Dedication; a marginal annotation in Hebrew is found at v3 verso. A faint old octogonal stamp (10 x 8mm) appears at the foot of the title, with arms surrounded by text: Santo Calo... [?]. Most notably, stamps of the Eigenthum des Seminars Fraenckelsche Stiftung appear at the title and colophon leaves. As "the first modern Jewish theological seminary," the Juedish-Theologisches Seminar in Breslau is a very notable provenance. Founded in accordance with the will of the businessman Jonas Fraenckel, with a celebrated library of around 30,000 volumes, "it became a center of Jewish scholarship and spritual activity until 1938" (EJ 4:1355), and one of the most important Jewish educational institutions in Europe. During the November pogroms of 1938 the library and the seminar were devastated, after which it was closed by the National Socialists and numerous students were deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Adams R-380. Benzing (Reuchlin) 106. Enc. Jud. 11:1100; 12:558. Goedeke I, p. 416, 21. J. R. Jacobson, Chanting the Hebrew Bible (2nd ed.), p. 15. Knaake II, 925. Panzer VII, p. 85, 143. Proctor 11690. S. Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980), 9:616. VD16 R 1234. Item #50858
Full title and imprint: DE ACCENTIBVS, ORTHOGRAPHIA, LINGVAE HEBRAIcae à Iohanne Reuchlin Phorcensi L.L. Doctore Libri Tres Cardinali Adriano dicati[colophon:] Hagenoae in aedibus Thomae Anshelmi Badensis Anno M.D.XVIII. Mense Februario. Cum Priuilegio Imperiali.