ADDISON, Lancelot.

The Present State of the Jews: (more particularly relating to those in Barbary.)

Wherein is contained an exact account of their customs, secular and religious. To which is annexed a summary discourse of the Misna, Talmud, and Gemara.

London: printed by J.C. for William Crooke; and to be sold by John Courtney, 1675 Stock Code: 149376
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"Possibly the first study of Moroccan Jewry"

First edition of possibly the first study of Moroccan Jewry and certainly one of the few to appear before the 20th century.

Addison, father of the essayist Joseph Addison, had been a curate in Tangier during the brief period when the city was a North African outpost of the English empire. Back in England he wrote two books based on his experiences: West Barbary, or a Short Narrative of the Revolutions of the Kingdoms of Fez and Morocco (1671) and the present work.

The "present state" of the Jews was a subject of considerable interest after Cromwell's 1657 decision to readmit them to England. Their settlement there remained in contention for the rest of the century. The engraved frontispiece, which somewhat puzzlingly depicts a generic North American, suggests the extent to which Jewish culture was still generally identified with barbarism and savagery at this date.

Addison's attitude is by no means philosemitic. He wastes no time in claiming that the Jews' lowly status is divine retribution for their participation in the crucifixion. ODNB claims that, "In contrast to the official English diffidence towards the Jews, suspected of passing information to the Moroccans, Addison was far from hostile to the Jewish community. He deplored their treatment and their insecurity in a Muslim country and praised their patience, good humour, sobriety, and temperance." But this is a partial reading. Elliott Horowitz remarks on Addison's habit of immediately undercutting such praises. For example, "he points... to the 'stoical patience' of the Jews, remarking that, 'In the midst of the greatest abuses you shall never see a Jew with an angry countenance, or appear concern'd. Yet Addison is quick to point out that this mode of behaviour 'cannot be imputed to any Heroick Temper in this People, but rather, to their customary suffering, being born and Educated in this kind of slavery'" (Horowitz, p. 316).

Addison's work needs to be read with care as an ethnographic source. Several of his descriptions of the customs of the Jews of Barbary are copied from one of his major, though largely unacknowledged sources, the erudite Synagoga Judaica of the Swiss Hebraist Johannes Buxtorf, which was first published in 1603. Buxtorf was familiar with Ashkenazic customs, not with Addison's Sephardic Jews, some of them former Marranos, living in the predominantly Muslim Maghreb. Nevertheless, Addison's corrections to Buxtorf In the second edition of 1676 Addison dropped the reference to Barbary from his title altogether.

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Octavo (181 x 108 mm). Contemporary ruled calf, rebacked with red morocco label.


Engraved frontispiece.


Contemporary ownership signature of C. Humphreys to front pastedown and title, 19th-century notes regarding the author and ownership signatures (W. H. Black, with note of acquisition in Bedford, 1862; Ohian theologian J. J. McElhinney, dated 1870) to endpapers, recent Fox Pointe bookplate. Binding firm, board extremities a little worn, one corner restored, light browning internally. A very good copy.


ESTC R421; Wing A526.


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