Five books of Moses

London Printing of the Five Books of Moses with the Haftaroth and the Five Rolls

Tikun sofrim: im vavei 'amudim, medukdak hetev (London, 1787)

Provenance: Daniel Eliason; Thomas Phillips, 1834


Appearing within decades of the first publication of a separate Hebrew Bible in England, this printing of the Pentateuch—with parallel texts in Hebrew and English—proved an important event for both Jews and Christians in 18th-century England. With handsome engraved frontispiece plates and Haftorah text in each volume, this edition features a translation by David Levi (1740-99), “a self-taught English Jew… regarded as the most authoritative spokesperson for Judaism in the English-speaking world.

Christian writers on Judaism such as Hannah Adams in America and the abbe Henri Gregoire in France relied on Levi’s works for information about Jewish religion and practices. Since the English Jewish community of the time knew little or no Hebrew, Levi translated the Sephardic and Ashkenazi prayers books, and produced expositions and translations of much Jewish lore about ritual and practice. His texts were used by Jewish and Christian writers well into the 19th century” (Popkin, “David Levi,” Jewish Quarterly Review).

David Levi was a member of the London Congregation of German and Polish Jews and published a number of works for his co-religionists including translations of the Hebrew ritual, a Hebrew grammar, and apologetic exchanges with Joseph Priestly and Thomas Paine.