Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Sefer ha-Kodesh ve-hu Torah Ne-vi'im Ketuvim gam Kitve Berit ha-Hadashah (The Holy Scriptures, that is Torah, Prophets, and Writings, Along with the New Testament) [FIRST HEBREW VERSION OF THE TESTAMENT PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES]

Philadelphia: Bagster & Marshall, [1839]. First American edition. Hardcover. Octavo. [6], 10, 778pp. Pointed Hebrew text in two columns (the New Testament with only vocal marks). Continuous pagination in Arabic numerals; but separate Hebrew pagination for the Old and New Testaments. Contemporary three-quarter calf over pebbled cloth boards; spine with raised bands, ruled and lettered in gilt. Decorative endleaves. Covers rubbed with wear at spine caps and corners. Library pressure stamp at title, bookplate and pocket at paste-downs. A good ex-library copy with very clean, fresh text throughout.

First American edition of this Hebrew Bible, earlier published by Samuel Bagster at London in 1835; it contains the first printing of the New Testament in Hebrew translation to appear in the United States. That translation was prepared by the philologist William Greenfield (1799-1831), the editorial superintendent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and first published by Samuel Bagster at London in 1831 (D&M no. 5186). In preparing his revised Hebrew version Greenfield was allowed to utilise the London Jews' Society Hebrew New Testament, published at London between 1813 and 1817 (D&M no. 5170). Among the earliest publications of the society founded in 1809, this version was itself based upon Elias Hutter's Hebrew translation of the New Testament published at Nuremberg in 1599 (D&M no. 5111). Prepared by a group of scholars under the supervision of Thomas Fry and William Bengo Collyer, this London Jews’ Society edition employed only biblical words, and translated Old Testament quotations from the Greek, not citing them directly from the Hebrew Scriptures.

The editor of the New Testament version in the present work appears to have had a notable gift for languages. William Greenfield began his Hebrew studies as a young man while apprenticed to a bookbinder, taking lessons from one of his co-workers, a Jew with some learning, who had been described as "a reader of the law in the synagogue" (ODNB). Greenfield subsequently left the business in 1824 in order to devote himself to languages and biblical criticism. His defence of the Serampore Mahratta version of the New Testament in response to an 1829 article in the Asiatic Journal brought him to the attention of the British and Foreign Bible Society who then hired him to superintend their editiorial department. "During his nineteen months in the society's service Greenfield wrote on twelve European, five Asiatic, one African, and three American languages, and acquired considerable knowledge of Peruvian, African-English, Chippeway, and Berber" (ODNB). His revision of the Hebrew New Testament earlier published by the London Jews' Society was among the last works he undertook for the British and Foreign Bible Society, along with the revision of the Modern Greek Psalter as it went through the press.

Provenance: Bookplate (and other markings, including withdrawal stamp) of the Library of the Garrett Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois. Good +. Item #52150

Full title in Hebrew: ספר הקדש והוא תורה נביאים וכתובים גם כתבי ברית החדשה נעתק מלשון יונית אל לשון עברית
Philadelphiae: Sumptibus Bagster et Marshall, in via vulgo dicta Chestnut Street, ad Repositorium Bibliorum Sacrorum, etc. quae in linguis antiquis et hodiernis edita sunt. Anno erae Judaicae, I [rev. C; rev. C] DXCIX.

References: Goldman, Hebrew Printing in America, no. 6: "This was the first New Testament published in Hebrew in America." ODNB: "Greenfield, William" (Gordon Goodwin, revised by H. C. G. Matthew). J. R. Marcus, "Jewish Americana, a Supplement to A. S. W. Rosenbach An American Jewish Bibliography" [in:] Monographs of the American Jewish Archives (1954, no. 1), no. 164. Cf. Darlow & Moule nos. 5111; 5170; 5186.

Price: $9,500.00

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