Philadelphia: [Isaac Leeser], 1853–54. First Edition. Harcover. Item #41379
5614 [1853–54]. 1st edition. Original period deluxe tooled leather, 4to, [iv], 1011, [v] pages [1020 pages total]. COPY BELONGING TO JEWISH COMMUNAL LEADER AND DIPLOMAT BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PEIXOTTO (1834–1890), WITH HIS OWNERSHIP SIGNATURE ON THE FRONT ENDPAPER ("B.F. Peixotto, Cleveland, O. 1865"). Beautiful original period leather binding with tooled leather boards and board edges and raised bands. All Edges Gilt. The first edition of the first translation of the full Hebrew bible (Old Testament) into English by a Jew. Deinard 847; Singerman 1271; Goldman 12. Vinograd, Philadelphia 21. Very important work, Isaac Leeser’s magnum opus. In the preface, Leeser here writes of a life-long ambition “to do for his fellow Hebrews who use the English as their vernacular, what had been done for the Germans by some of the most eminent minds…” That is, to present an Old Testament Bible in the people’s tongue which was unprejudiced against Jews. This task took Rabbi Leeser more than 15 years to complete. “The Twenty-Four Books...,” has remained Leeser's literary magnum opus and his most lasting contribution to Judaism in America. Printed in 1854, complete with "short explanatory notes, " his efforts at biblical translation had actually developed in stages, beginning almost two decades earlier. Leeser's first biblical translation was The Law of God, a Pentateuch (Five Books of Moses) in five volumes, published in 1845. According to Leeser’s biographer Lance Sussman, one factor convincing Leeser of the need for a Jewish-translated bible into English was the opening of Rebecca Gratz's Sunday School in March 1838, in Philadelphia. The school was desperately in need of appropriate study material, with students using the King James Bible for want of a Jewish alternative: religiously objectionable passages in other texts provided by Protestant organizations were either pasted over or torn out by Gratz's staff. Leeser, who supported the Sunday School and was its chief academic resource person, felt compelled to find more suitable texts for the students. Leeser's Bible, as it has come to be known, quickly became the standard Bible for English-speaking Jews, especially in America. The impetus for Leeser throughout was always his desire to provide the Jews of America with an English text of the Bible that was produced by one of their own and was not tainted by conversionist motivations. In his preface to the present volume, Leeser characterizes this culmination of his long years of endeavor as having finally provided for his fellow Jews "a version of the Bible which has not been made by the authority of churches in which they have no confidence." Benjamin Franklin Peixotto (1834–1890), the owner of this bible, was a lawyer, diplomat, and important Jewish communal leader. His mother, Rachel Seixas, and his paternal grandfather, Moses Levi Maduro Peixotto (Hazzan of New York's Congregation Shearith Israel from 1820-1828) were both members of important early New York Jewish families. Young Benjamin settled in Cleveland during 1847–66, writing frequent editorials for the daily Cleveland Plain Dealer. “In 1855, Peixotto and [George A.] Davis founded the Hebrew Benevolent Society; Peixotto was its secretary. In 1863 Peixotto helped found the first Cleveland lodge of B'nai B'rith. In 1860, he founded the Young Men's Hebrew Literary Society, four years later convincing it to affiliate with B'nai B'rith as Montefiore Lodge” (Ency Cleveland History, 2020). In addition, “Peixotto was a follower of Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois [Abraham Lincoln’s famous sparring partner in the Great Debates of 1858], under whose guidance Peixotto studied law. A trustee and founder of the Sunday School at Congregation Tifereth Israel (now The Temple), he served as Grand Sar (president) of B'nai B'rith during 1863–64 and was the prime mover for its Jewish Orphan Asylum (now Bellefaire) established in Cleveland in 1869….Early in 1870, moved by the Romanian persecution of Jews, Peixotto succeeded in becoming the first U.S. consul in Bucharest, appointed by President Grant through the intervention of the Seligmans. His financial needs in the unpaid position, as well as political support, were provided, not always reliably, by a group of wealthy U.S. Jews, along with the B'nai B'rith, the Board of Delegates of American Israelites, and prominent French and English Jews led by Sir Francis Goldsmid. In Bucharest Peixotto pressed vigorously for Jewish emancipation, to which Romanian Jews were legally entitled by the Treaty of Paris of 1856, and also took the initiative in founding Jewish schools, cultural societies, and Romanian B'nai B'rith, as part of his plan to modernize Jewish life in that country….his well-publicized presence inhibited new antisemitic legislation and avoided or mitigated several pogroms….he continued to endorse emigration privately while serving in Bucharest until 1876. From 1877 to 1885 Peixotto was U.S. consul in Lyons….His son was George Da Maduro Peixotto (1859–1937), a painter….He became a notable portrait painter, executing portraits from life of Cardinal Manning, President McKinley, Chief Justice Waite, and John Hay, among others….Peixotto's portrait of Sir Moses Montefiore at the latter's centenary in 1884 hung in the Corcoran Gallery, and his painting of [Rabbi] Julius Bien hangs in the National Museum, Washington, D.C.” (JewishVirtualLibrary). For more on this work, see: Israel Abrahams, “Isaac Leeser’s Bible," By-Paths in Hebraic Bookland (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1920), 254-259. Ephraim Deinard, Kohelet america: yakhil reshimat kol ha-sefarim asher nidpesu ba-america mi-shenat 495 (1735) ad shenat 686 (1926) u-bikkoret ketsarah kim‘at al kol sefer, vol. 2 (St. Louis: Moinester Printing Company, 1926), 133 (no. 847). Yosef Goldman, Hebrew Printing in America 1735-1926: A History and Annotated Bibliography, vol. 1 (Brooklyn: Yosef Goldman, 2006), 12-13 (no. 12). Jonathan D. Sarna and Nahum M. Sarna, “Jewish Bible Scholarship and Translations in the United States," in Ernest S. Frerichs (ed.), The Bible and Bibles in America (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988), 83-116, at pp. 84-92. Lance J. Sussman, “Another Look at Isaac Leeser and the First Jewish Translation of the Bible in the United States," Modern Judaism 5,2 (1985): 159-190. Lance J. Sussman, Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995), 150-151, 185-193. The most recent sale of any copy of this work at auction (2018) was for over $16,000 (with premium). Original tooled black leather binding expertly repaired, with some light wear and loss of gilt to boards and edges. Rubbing to lemon endpapers and small repairs to outer margins of some leaves. A beautiful copy of this landmark of American Jewish scholarship with important provenance. Very Good Condition (AMR-39-53-BD).