London, South Kensington
1 June 2009
I ANNE, 30 December 1701. An Act to Oblige the Jews to Maintain and Provide for their Protestant Children. London: Charles Bill, 1702. 2° (314 x 200mm). Black letter, woodcut royal coat-of-arms to divisional titles, a few woodcut headpieces and initials. (Occasional very light browning and spotting.) Bound with other Acts of Parliament in contemporary panelled calf, red morocco lettering-piece (covers slightly warped, extremities rubbed, joints cracking, one endleaf loose). Provenance: Roger Millars (contemporary ink inscription on first title).
THE FIRST JEWISH ACT OF PARLIAMENT. Printed on recto and verso of a single leaf, this was a significant Act. Hitherto, Jews had only been mentioned in clauses of Acts or within the context of law suits and trials. This was the first Act to deal exclusively with Jews, defining not only Jewish legal obligations, but also being designed to convert Jews to the Anglican faith. The Act came into being as a result of Mary Mendez de Berta, an 18-year-old Jewess, converting to Protestantism. Her father disowned and expelled her from the family home, and in desperation she turned to the Church of England. A complaint was lodged against her father, and he was ordered by a court to pay for her upkeep. However, this was overturned on appeal, on the grounds that there was no legal obligation to do so. In consequence, a petition was made to Parliament in order to protect converts and force their parents to provide maintenance. Bound into a printed volume of Acts for the last year of the reign of William III and the first year of Queen Anne, including: An Act for the Attainder of the Pretended Prince of Wales of High Treason; An Act for the Further Security of His Majesties Person, and the Succession of the Crown in the Protestant Line; An Act for enabling Her Majesty to Appoint Commissioners to treat for an Union between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland; An Act for the enlarging and encouraging the Greenland Trade. Roth, Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica, p. 246, no. 1.
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