Venice: Alessandro Paganini, 21st February, 1514.
Octavo: 14.5 x 9.7 cm.  pp. A-D8 (-D8 blank)
Bound in 19th c. vellum, tooled in blind. A nice copy. Title lightly soiled, some very pale staining, a few early notes in the margins. All edges red. Bound with an unrelated work. A rare edition of this work, first printed in 1474. 2 copies of this 1514 edition located in North America (UCLA, Hebrew Union.).
The anti-Semitic “Epistola contra Judaeorum errores”(Letter against the Errors of the Jews) was purportedly written in Arabic at the beginning of the eleventh century by Samuel of Morocco, an apostate Jew. The main source is in fact the Arabic treatise Ifham al-Yahud [Confutation of the Jews] by the convert Samuel Abu Nasr ibn Abbas, son of Judah ibn Abbas of Fez. In his original version, Samuel claimed to prove the prophetic character of Jesus and Mohammed and argued that too many laws were added to the Torah by the Mishnah and Gemara.
The book was translated into Latin in the 14th c. by the Spanish Dominican Alphonsus Bonihominis (Buenhombre) and widely disseminated. Buenhombre adapted the tract to present it as a Christian rather than Muslim polemic; he may well have drawn on other Arabic texts as well. In Buenhombre’s rendering, Rabbi Samuel addresses himself to a Rabbi Isaac, head of a rabbinical school and synagogue in Morocco. Ingeniously, the author argues that agreement between Muslims and Christians on numerous matters prove that Jews are “in the minority position.” “We are enemies of all people and the testimony of the majority -that is, of the Saracens and the Christians, of the Qur’an and the Gospels, [neither] of which we want to believe- is always against us.” Persuaded by Samuel’s arguments against the “errors” of Judaism, Isaac converts to Christianity.
According to Buenhombre, the book was originally written in Arabic because only a few Jews and even fewer Christians knew that language, thus the text could remain concealed for hundreds of years, and the Christians were not able to use it against Jews, until he found and translated it while he was the Bishop of Marrakech in 1338 or 1339. The book was first printed in 1474.
It is worthy of note that the book experienced a resurgence in Germany during the Reformation, when it was printed in response to Luther’s “Das Jhesus Christus ain geborner Jude sey” (that Jesus Christ was born a Jew) of 1523, in which the Reformer stated his opinion that Jews resisted conversion because Christians treated them like dogs.”.
CNCE 28188. OCLC 173028134. See O. LIMOR-G.G. STROUMSA (editors), The Epistle of Rabbi Samuel of Morocco: A Best-Seller in the World of Polemics, in "Contra Iudaeos: Ancient and Medieval Polemics between Christians and Jews", Tübingen, 1996, pp. 177-194.