GABIROL, Solomon ben Judah ibn (Malaga, c. 1021-c. 1056). Mivchar ha-Peninim (A Choice of Corals [or Pearls]), translated from the Arabic by Judah ben Saul ibn Tibbon, with an anonymous commentary. Corrected by Solomon ben Perets Bonfoy Sarfati. [Soncino]: Joshua Solomon ben Israel Nathan Soncino, 17 Shevat 244 (= 14 January 1484).
Chancery 4o (189 x 135 mm). Collation: 1-78 84 (1/1: blank; 1/2r: introduction; 1/2r, line 8: title; 1/2r, line 12: beginning of the anonymous commentary; 1/2v, line 4: beginning of the text; 8/1v, line 28: end of the text; 8/2r, line 19: end of the commentary; 8/2r, line 21: addition; 8/2v, line 20: conclusion; 8/2v, line 21: beginning of the table of contents; 8/3v: concluding poem by the corrector, Solomon ben Perets Bonfoy Sarfati, with acrostic: Solomon; 8/3v, line 5 - 8/4r, line 6: epilogue of the corrector; 8/4v: blank). 59 leaves (of 60, lacking the first blank). Unfoliated. Signed to the fold. Catchwords on recto and verso pages, used irregularly, as last words of the last line on the page. In every eight-leaf quire catchwords from the fourth to the fifth leaf. No headlines. 28-32 lines (varying). A page of 28 lines, with signature, measures 126,5 (130) x 93 mm; a page of 32 lines, with signature, 145 (148) x 93 mm. Types: 1:240 H. (square) for the title only; 2:90/92 H. (square) for the text; 3:90/92 H. (semi-cursive) for the commentary. Line fillers. Unwatermarked paper. (Staining to first page, one small stain obscuring two letters, occasional marginal dampstaining.) Modern fawn morocco, covers and spine panelled in blind, spine gold-tooled, quires 7 and 8 strengthened with strips from a fifteenth-century Latin manuscript.
PROVENANCE: Early foliation (erroneous) in square Hebrew numerals, in two different hands. Early Hebrew and Latin notes on final blank page (8/4v). Signatures of three censors on leaves 8/3v and 8/4r: 'revista per me Cristoforo Canontino 1592'; 'Corr. per me Gio: Dom:co de Lodi di comissione del M.R.P. Nic:o del s:to officio de sorzono questo di 12 Febro 1602'; 'Ita est Fr. Hip[politus] Capellus de Brixia [?...]'. No traces of expurgation. Nineteenth-century Hebrew note on place and year of publication on leaf 1/2r.
FIRST EDITION AND THE FIRST PUBLICATION OF THE FAMOUS SONCINO PRINTING DYNASTY. Although the printing of the Talmudic treatise Berakhot was completed one month earlier, the latter edition was not published until 2 February 1484.
The 11th-century poet Solomon ben Judah Ibn Gabirol was orphaned in childhood and supported by philanthropy in Saragossa. His earliest surviving poems were written at the age of sixteen. Little is known of his life; his considerable poetic legacy was collected in the nineteenth century and published by Bialik and Ravnitzky. His secular poems are lively, dealing with love, drinking and nature; primarily, however, he mourns his inability to enjoy the pleasures of the world. In contrast, his sacred poetry expresses humble submission and reverence for God and the suffering of the Jewish people and their longing for redemption. Many of these poems have been incorporated into the Hebrew liturgy. Two of his philosophical works have survived, Mekor Chayyim (Source of Life, originally known from a medieval Latin translation as Fons Vitae and ascribed to the Arabic philosopher Avicebron), and Tikkun Middot ha-Nefesh (Improvement of the Moral Qualities), a Neo-Platonistic work that may have influenced Spinoza.
The authenticity of the authorship of Ibn Gabirol as a compiler of the Mivchar ha-Peninim, which was also attributed to Jedaja Hapenini ben Abraham Bedershi, was established by A. Marx in a 1927 article in Hebrew Union College Annual 4, p. 438-48, 'Gabirol's Authorship of the Choice of Pearls and the Two Versions of Joseph Kimhi's Shekel Hakodesh', (reprinted in his Studies in Jewish History and Booklore, New York 1944 and Westmead, Farnborough 1969, p. 9-25). The text was frequently reprinted (Venice 1546; Vinograd, Thesaurus, p. 248, no. 271, and Cremona 1558; Vinograd, Thesaurus, p. 647, no. 22, etc.); an early English translation was published by B. H. Ascher (London 1859).
REFERENCES: Hain 9369 = 11136; Adler 37; BAVI Heb-44; Cassuto 8bis; CIBN Heb-29; Cowley, p. 650; De-Rossi I, 9; Freimann 53; Goff Heb-98; Goldstein 25; Iakerson 20-22; IBP 5063; IDL 2449; IGI E 65; Madsen 4333; Manzoni 3; Marx 59; Oates 2715; Offenberg 57; Ohly-Sack 2543; Polain 10387 (10150); Proctor 7293; Steinschneider 6916, 1; Tamani (Parma) 61; Thesaurus A 27; Tishby 30; VB 3581; Wachstein 264; Walsh Heb-7; Zedner p. 537.