ALBO, Joseph (c.1360-c.1444). Sefer Ha'Ikarim (Book of Fundamental Principles). Soncino: [Joshua Solomon ben Israel Nathan Soncino], 31 October-29 December 1485.
Chancery 2o (260 x 177 mm). Collation: [1-28 36 4-138 146]. 108 leaves (plus a defective duplicate copy of leaf 8/2). Unfoliated, signed on rectos of first leaf of each bifolium. Single column, 46 lines including headlines. Types: 1:240 H. (square) for chapter headings on fol. 1.8v only; 2:90/92 (square) for the remaining chapter headings and the initial words, signatures and Psalm verses on fol. 1/6v; 3:90/92 H (semi-cursive) for text, with the exception of quire 2 and the outer sheet and inner forme of central sheet of quire 5, which are in 5:88H (semi-cursive, apparently the same font as the principal text type, cast on a somewhat smaller body, and with an additional aleph-lamed ligature). Headings on 1/2r and 1/7r in floriated white-on-black woodcut capitals. (Marginal repairs in first 2 quires, some worming, fols. 8/2-8/4 supplied from another copy, with extensive mostly marginal tears repaired by silking, 8/2 and 8/3 silked on rectos and misbound in reverse order, 8/4 silked on verso and rebound in backwards, small loss to a few words of text in lower portion of 8/2, ink of deleted passages affecting paper in a few places, a duplicate, expurgated copy of 8/2, with the lower 17 lines cut away, bound in after 8/1, some worming, scattered staining.) 18th-century sheep-backed marbled boards, edges stained pale yellow and orange (quite rubbed, endpapers renewed).
1) Extensive early Hebrew marginalia in 2 or 3 hands, including one geometrical and one astronomical diagram; many cropped but several earlier notes including the solar system diagram cut round and preserved on folded-back flaps.
2) The supplied leaves 8/2-8/4 extensively marked up by a censor (apparently not Jaghel) with marginal corrections and several passages expurgated in ink; censor's signature at end of text, "Camillo Jaghel 1619". Jaghel at the time resided in Urbino (see lot 179).
3) Rev. Aaron Levy Green (1821-1883), of the Bristol Hebrew Congregation and later of the Central Synagogue, London, honorary secretary of Jews' College (inkstamps).
FIRST EDITION of the most important work of the Spanish philosopher and theologian Joseph Albo. Little is known of Albo's life, but his writings attest to a broad education in Christian and Islamic as well as Jewish theology, mathematics and medicine. Completed in Castille in about 1425, his "Book of Principles" discusses the fundamental articles of Jewish faith (the existence of God, the nature of divine law, the expectation of a Messiah). Probably intended to bolster the sorely tried morale of his fellow Iberian Jews, it may also be read as a defence of Judaism against its Christian critics. Albo's work, which remained in print for centuries and was the object of a 5-volume critical edition by Isaac Husik in 1929-30, was greatly admired by many Christians, including Hugo Grotius. It contains, however several passages and two chapters in particular that are sharply critical of Christianity, and Albo was declared a heretic in 1566.
This edition is among the earliest books produced at the first press of the Soncino family, the great 15th-century Jewish printing dynasty, who are thought to have produced over a third of all recorded Hebrew incunabula. The first edition to issue from the press, Gabirol, Muvchar ha-Peninim, was printed in January 1484 (the Talmudic treatise Bekharot was printed in December 1483 but not published until February).
The leaves containing the offensive chapters (fols. 8/2-4) were excised from most copies by papal censors; they are here supplied from a different copy, heavily expurgated. The present copy is of particular interest for the abundant contemporary glosses, evidence of its use by an early Jewish scholar.
Goff Heb-64; H 606; CIBN Heb-19; IDL 2436; IGI 258; Ohly-Sack 1714, 1715; Walsh Heb-10; BSB-Ink I-614; Goldstein 30 (listing 8 copies in England, present copy included); Steinschneider 5882; Zedner, p. 353; Offenberg Rosenthaliana 9; Offenberg Census 3 (listing 50 copies, the present included, of which 19 imperfect).