Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Sefer Gerushin (The Book of Exile Wanderings)

Venice: D. Zanetti, [1602]. First edition. Paperback. Quarto. Signed: [aleph]-[zayin]4. 24, [4, unnumbered]ff. Title within architectural woodcut border. Text in Hebrew. Eighteenth-century decorative paste-paper over flexible boards, backed in cloth. Block loose in binding. A touch of worm tracing at bottom margin of first three leaves; intermittent light dampstain. Text otherwise crisp and clean.

First edition of this collection of kabbalistic novellae. A disciple of Joseph Caro and of Solomon Alkabets, and a teacher of Isaac Luria, Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (1522-1570) was "the outstanding kabbalist in Safed before Isaac Luria... The doctrine of Cordovero is a summary and a development of the different trends in Kabbalah up to his time, and his whole work is a major attempt to synthesize and to construct a speculative kabbalistic system" (Enc. Jud.). His major systematic works are Pardes Rimmonim, written when Cordovero was 27 years old and first published at Cracow in 1591, and Elimah Rabbati. Sefer Gerushin might be thought of as a remarkable kind of diary, in which Cordovero recorded novel understandings of kabbalistic doctrines which were revealed to him while in the company of his teacher Solomon Alkabets and other colleagues. The special technique employed to achieve the necessary vacuity of mind which allows for unobstructed intuition is notable: "The method adopted by Moses Cordovero and his teacher and brother-in-law Solomon Alkabets consisted of peregrination through the Galilean countryside around Safed, and fervent prayers at the numerous tombs of Tannaim and Amoraim in the vicinity. These wanderings were not inspired by romantic notions of communing with nature; they were conceived as symbolic imitations of and participation in the "exile of Shekhinah" (i.e., of the divine aspect of sefirah conceived under this female symbol. Hence the opening words of Cordovero's record book of these mystical "exile wanderings" (literally "banishments") or gerushin: On Friday, the 10th of Shebat in the year 5308 [= 1548 C.E.] we went into the exile of the King and Queen as far as the ruins of the Beth ha-Midrash in Nabartin and there I hit upon the following novel kabbalistic idea: for I asked how it was possible [since the sefiroth] Tif'ereth and Malkhuth [i.e., the "King" and the "Queen" draw their life from the sides of [the sefiroth] Hesed and Geburah... and for the rest we get a highly technical discussion of kabbalistic doctrinal niceties" (Werblowsky).

The career of the principal editor of Sefer Gerushin, Isaac Gershon, is notable: "Over a period of nearly twenty five years, between 1585 and 1608, Gershon worked in the Hebrew printing houses of Venice while simultaneously serving as a rabbi and preacher in Venice... Gershon was involved in the production or publication of over fifty Hebrew works, a considerable number written by scholars associated with Safed including Joseph Karo, Moses Alshekh, Samuel Kohen Zedek, Moses Cordovero, and Eleazar Azikri. Many of the books Gershon helped print describe him on the frontispiece as a magiah, which one might render as corrector or editor, or describe the work that he performed for the text as hugah be-iyn rav, which might be rendered as corrected or edited with great care... During his time in Venice, Gershon worked for two different and competing publishing houses, Zanetti and Di Gara... Gershon worked in so many different capacities as a bookman - as anthologizer, advocate, and author - that he should be seen as a cultural impresario of Safed in print" (Dweck).

Provenance: Two small owner entries are neatly penned in Hebrew at the title page, one with flourishes in imitation of the woodcut border. Good. Item #52133

Hebrew title: ספר גרושין
Author: קורדוברו, משה
Imprint and Date: ‫ [ויניציה] : דפוס דניאל זאניטי, [שס"ב לערך]

A note on the publication date: While the title of Sefer Gerushin is undated, Stanford University notes in its description that it was published by Zanetti in the same year as Sefer Likute Shoshanim, which is dated 5362 (1602) at the title.

References: Y. Dweck, "Editing Safed: The Career of Isaac Gershon," [in:] Jewish Studies Quarterly, vol. 17 (2010), pp. 46-47. Enc. Jud. (1972), vol. 5, cols. 967-970. Steinschneider, col. 1794.4. Vinograd 944. R.J.Z. Werblowsky, "Mystical and Magical Contemplation: The Kabbalist in Sixteenth-Century Safed," [in:] History of Religions, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 19-20. For the Zanetti family of printers see: Amram, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy, pp. 342-344.

Price: $2,500.00

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