IMMANUEL ben SOLOMON of Rome (ca. 1261-after 1328). [Hebrew title:] Sefer ha-Mahbarot (Book of Poems). Brescia: Gershom ben Moses Soncino, 26 Marcheshvan 5252 [30 October 1491].
Chancery 4o (184 x 135 mm). Collation: 1-68 74 8-208 4 blank, 1/2r author's introduction, 1/3r text, 21/4v end of text and colophon). 159 leaves (of 160, without the blank). Unfoliated. 34 lines, single and double column. Types: square heading-type 1:240H (initial words); square heading-type unvocalized 4:136H ("titles" of the 27 Machbarot); square text-type unvocalized 3:92H (poems and signatures); semi-cursive text type 2:90/2H (text). First word printed with three white-on-black woodcut letters opening text on 1/2r, small woodcut zodiacal signs illustrating the poems on the months of the year, 6/8r. (First leaf with small repaired hole affecting 2 letters and small marginal tears partially shaving two letters of title and a letter in first line on verso, tiny wormhole and light staining in first and second leaves, dampstaining, last 3 leaves strengthened at gutters.) Modern half calf and marbled boards.
Provenance: early Hebrew inscription on first page, a few neat contemporary Hebrew marginalia -- signatures of three censors on last page, the last dated 1609: Revisus per me Laurentius Franquelius(?); Fr. Hipp[olitu]s iber(?); Revista per mi gio. domco iustorini 1609 -- erased round 19th-century inkstamp at end -- [Sotheby's New York, 12 December 1991, lot 56]
FIRST EDITION, THE FIRST PRINTED BOOK OF HEBREW POETRY. A native of Rome, the poet and Biblical scholar Immanuel ben Solomon (Manuello Giudeo) introduced into Italy Spanish metric form, modeled on the classic Hebrew poets Solomon ibn Gabirol, Judah Halevi and Judah Al-Charizi, and was the first to adapt the Petrarchan sonnet form to Hebrew prosody. Known as the "emperor of poets," he was a master of stylistic wit and word-play; his poems, ranging in tone from the satirical to the elegiacal, are dense with allusions, riddles, and epigrams. The last work in this collection of his poetry and rhymed prose, the Machberet (Ha-Tofet ve-ha-Eden), is an account of a voyage through hell and paradise in imitation of Dante. Because of the licentious nature of some of his verse he was disapproved of by the rabbis. Nevertheless, in his colophon Soncino expresses his intention to print "other sacred works of the Divine Torah," implying that Immanuel's writings were already viewed as part of the definitive canon of Hebrew literature.
This was the first book printed by Gershom Soncino at Brescia, and the fourth of the many editions issued by his various presses. The most prolific member of the Soncino dynasty of scholar-printers and the greatest Hebrew printer of the 15th and early 16th centuries, Gershom produced three books at Soncino in 1488-90 before the anti-Jewish decrees of Lodovico Sforza forced him to flee to Brescia, in Venetian territory. He remained there for four years before moving on to Barco. During the remainder of Gershom's long career persecution drove him from town to town, and he established presses successively in nine different cities.
EXTREMELY RARE. H 9137; CIBN Heb-17; Goldstein 61; IGI 5140; Harvard/Walsh Heb-29; Offenberg 58; Sander 3492; Steinschneider 5269,1; Zedner p. 324; Goff Heb-43.