Menasseh Ben Israel

Menasseh Ben Israel (1604–1657) was a Portuguese-Jewish scholar, writer, diplomat and book-printer in Amsterdam.

In 1626 Menasseh founded his own printing works in Amsterdam, making him one of the first in the Netherlands to print books in Hebrew. Menasseh’s circle of friends included Vossius, Barlaeus, Hugo de Groot and Rembrandt, among others.

The Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana contains an almost complete collection of Menasseh editions; there are 70 copies (around 75 were printed in total). In addition to these printed works, the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana also has six original manuscripts. These are rare, as very few of Menasseh’s letters were kept. Furthermore, the collection contains a copper-engraving portrait of Menasseh by Salmon Italia and an etching by Rembrandt. Scholars are not yet agreed on whether the etching by Rembrandt does indeed portray Menasseh.

Published by  Special Collections UvA

3 July 2014