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DATED 1535. 

In a corpus geographorum, for which it will be one of the first duties 
of Jewish Science to edit critical texts of Hebrew descriptive travels 
composed during the latter half of the fifteenth and the beginning 
of the sixteenth centuries, the post of honour will certainly belong 
to the Italians. The extraordinarily favourable relations between 
Venice and the whole of the Orieht, the periodical voyages of perfectly 
equipped vessels to Egypt and Palestine \ the development of trade 
between the Republic and the Levant, acted as a continual stimulus 
to the Italian Jews to visit the scenes of their national glory. Though 
a natural result of their refined intellects, their liberal education, 
which had reached a higher stage in Italy than elsewhere, and their 
mastery of the Hebrew language, exhibited in a flowing and pure 
prose, still praise is due to the Italian Jews for having preserved their 
observations and impressions permanently, in detailed reports of 
their travels, and in letters sent home to their relatives and friends. 
These reports and epistles furnish valuable historical data concerning 
countries and periods of which we should otherwise have remained in 
total darkness. The eagerness with which every one awaited news 
from the Orient transformed every pilgrim into a geographer, every 
traveller into an author. Merchant or scholar, saint or man of the 
world, all wrote accounts of their travels, which, on reaching their 
destination, were shown round and were even copied and widely dis- 
tributed. Thus, for example, there are the valuable travels which 
Meshullam b. Menachem 2 di Volterra 3 wrote in 1481, describing his 

1 Cp. notices of these travelling routes in M. Steinschneider's Hebr. 
Bibliographie, XXI, 136. 

2 Possibly the scribe of the Codex Gunzberg 166, Menachem b. Aaron 
b. Joab of Volterra is Meshullam's father. He styles himself, according 
to Senior Sachs' catalogue, at the close of this manuscript : nw "isp YMfn 
tom rman pn« Yrrcm oroo vnn -vu itp-io o-p'aon nan '3co raw rrn nun 
irmtor? nrvn rnrn '13 taicS lnrmnpi irvnonm wraroi H-rcaM vyo n'^Si w 
xtfm OOTrti n»ni o'cSt neon row w tin unrrt dts' -ws nrrwa [1433]. 

3 Edited by D. Castelli in A. M. Luncz's Jerusalem, I, p. 166, &c. 

VOL. IX. K k 


experiences during a journey to Egypt and Palestine. It appears 
that commerce with precious stones often brought the Florentine 
merchant to the Orient 1 . When Obadiah di Bertinoro. at the close of 
1487, commenced his pilgrimage to the Holy Land 2 , Meshullam was 
on the same ship, which he, however, left in order to re-embark at 
Rhodes in a vessel bound for Chios 3 . The letter which Obadiah di 
Bertinoro wrote to his father from Jerusalem is one of the most 
authentic Jewish itineraries ever composed. The anonymous Italian 
traveller who, probably impelled by R. Obadiah's example, left Venice 
on August 5, 1495/ did not pass through Egypt, but went direct to 
Beyruth*. This omission is regrettable, because we have thus lost 
a number of valuable observations and evidences which we otherwise 
might have possessed. 

With the Italian Jews' renewed interest in the Ten Tribes 
and the River Sambation, fostered by the accounts of David 
Reubeni and other reporters from the Orient, the correspondence 
from the Holy Land received a fresh impetus. The Cabbalist 
Abraham Levi of Jerusalem had already, in 1524, sent a letter to 
Mordecai Modena and Asher Levi 6 . In 1528 he gives an account of 
the Ten Tribes *. His colleague Israel, probably Israel Ashkenazi of 
Perugia, a friend of the Egyptian Nagid, Isaac Cohen Sholal, who 
was spending his closing years in Jerusalem in dire want, sends his 
patron Abraham of Perugia periodical letters, in which he discusses 
the signs of the times and gives news concerning the Ten Tribes 7 . 
Abraham of Perugia received reports on the same subject from Rafael 
b. Azriel Trabotto 8 . Previously to this period already, Juda b. 
Salomon di Blanes 9 , in Castello, had begun to collect everything that 
reached him from the Orient on these topics ,0 . 

Thus it will be explained that also a simple merchant, Moses di Rossi 
of Cesena,whom originally commercial interests brought to the Orient, 
sent to his native place a report of his travels, couched in literary 
form, in which he also touches upon the question of questions, 

1 Castelli in Luncz's Jerusalem, I, p. 186. 

a His two Letters were published with a Translation in the Jahrbuck 
j&r die Geschichte der Juden, 1863, II, p. 195, &c. 
3 Ibid., p. 199. 

* Also edited by A. Neubauer, and translated, ibid., p. 273, &c. 

5 Codex 6a 4 of the Giinzberg Collection in St. Petersburg, according to 
Senior Sachs' Manuscript Catalogue. 

* Published by A. Neubauer in t to pp, 1888, IV, p. 24, &c, and in 
The Jewish Quarterly Review, I, p. 10, &c. 

7 Ibid., pp. 25-33. 8 Ibid. , p. 32, &c. 

* Cp. D. Kaufmann in Revue des Etudes Juives, IV, p. 93, note 1. 
10 t to pp, IV, p. 36, &c. 


which so excited his co-religionists— the existence of the Ten Tribes. 
Abraham Joseph Salomon Graziano 1 , the indefatigable compiler 
of Modena, justly deemed this letter worthy of preservation in his 
Collection, in which his industry and scientific instinct rescued from 
oblivion so many Jewish historical documents. From this work, 
which is in my possession, Moses' letter is here published for the 
first time. Moses di Rossi belonged, as his son Elias' name proves, 
to the family of Menachem b. Elias of Cesena 2 . He set out for 
the Orient in 1534. His son Elias appears to have been captured 
by pirates. The father learnt, however, from a correspondent at 
Famagusta in Cyprus, that Elias had been liberated from captivity. 
Safed, in Galilee, became the home of Moses ; from this centre he under- 
took many journeys for commercial purposes. A sister Hannah, and 
her husband Isaac Baruch, accompanied him on his pilgrimage to 
the Holy Land. But Isaac's feeble health was unequal to the hard- 
ship of the voyage, so that a slight accident, a fall over a door step 
in Zidon, proved fatal. The widow, Moses' sister, did not care to 
stay longer in the East and soon returned home to Cesena, bringing 
with her, as a pious memento of her Oriental travels, a list of 
tombs in the Holy Land, given to her at Jerusalem, where she spent 
two months with her husband and whence she accompanied him 
to Hebron 3 . But though Moses leaves much to his sister's oral 
report, he will not send his letter without some account of the Ten 
Tribes. His meagre information only amounts to this : that a king- 
dom of free Jewish tribes are said to live in the desert, far from the 
ordinary course of caravans, and that they make common cause 
with the Arabs in raids on travellers; the Jews, however, whom 
they meet are treated hospitably, presented with rich gifts, and 
safely escorted to their destination. This completely corresponds with 
the account received by Abraham b. Isaac Halevi Ibn Megas, physician 
in ordinary to the Sultan Solyman, whom he accompanied on his 
expedition to Aleppo 4 . Our report repeats accounts of eye-witnesses 
concerning Jewish tribes in Ethiopia, the Falashas B . In the market- 
place of Trablous he met a Jewish merchant, who dealt in sugar, 
rice, paper, and other products, but who also had with him seventy- 
five Jewish male and female slaves from Ethiopia. Another Jewish 

1 Cf. D. Kaufmann, Monatsschrift, 39, 351, note I. 

2 Hebrew Bibliography, XII, 107 f. 

3 Isaac Baruch cannot be the author of the work mentioned hy Zunz 
(Collected Writings, I, p. 179, note 72), as the latter was written in 1521 
and 1522. 

* Zunz, I, p. 84, &c. 

6 Cp. A. Epstein, Eldad ha-Dani, p. 183, &c. 

K k 2 


merchant of Trablous related his travels which brought him to the 
Falashas, how he had crossed the so-called Magnetic Sea in a ship 
put together without iron nails and so reached his destination. The 
heat in those countries was so intense that the inhabitants were forced 
to go about naked. The town Sindschel l was exclusively inhabited 
by Jews who sold the king of Portugal, annually, 40,000 burdens 
of pepper ; the money they received was used by them in commercial 
enterprises. But what no other traveller has reported about the 
Falashas, came to the ears of di Rossi, viz. : that they only recognize 
Maimonides' Code and possess no other authorities on traditional law. 

Consistently with the character of a cultivated Italian Jew, who was 
at the same time a man of the world and a child of his age, Moses di 
Rossi had also an eye for political and social life abroad. He reports 
the conquests of the great Sultan Solyman, who, with the assistance 
of the Grand Vizier Ibrahim, subdued Persia, the kingdom of the 
Ssafi Dynasty. On December 31, 1534, the victorious Sultan received 
the keys of Bagdad, which had surrendered without a blow having 
been struck, and he was able to add to his other titles that of Lord 
of Darus-Salam, the Home of prosperity and victory, as Bagdad used 
to be called 2 . The conquest of Tebris, the heavy losses of the Turkish 
army, which, in the winter of 1534-5, lost its beasts of burden 8 in the 
impassable streets, were, as we learn from Moses, quickly and correctly 
known at Safed. If Moses, as a Turkish subject, followed with keen 
interest and sympathy the military movements of his sovereign, he, 
on the other hand, does not fail to give his undiminished attention 
to political events in the land of his birth. The ship arriving from 
Ragusa had brought news of the election of a new Pope. Clement VII 
had died, having occupied St. Peter's chair for twelve years, and 
Alexander Parnese, after a cardinalate of forty years, had been elected, 
in the Conclave of October, 1534, Pope, in his sixty -seventh year, with 
the title Paul III*. Moses' expectation that this election would 
prove favourable to the Jews seems to have been justified 5 by sub- 
sequent events. 

Moses was so far unfortunate in Safed that during his stay there 
the price of provisions, which in ordinary years was incredibly low, 
became, owing to a drought, excessively dear. The fruit that in 
other years came from Damascus was completely destroyed by a hail- 

1 On Singili or Cranganore in India, see Gustav Oppert, in Semitic Studies, 
ed. by G. A. Kohut, pp. 404, 410 ; comp. also pp. 613-614. 

2 Hammer, Geschichte des osmanischen Seiches, II 2 , pp. n 4- 11 8. 

3 Ibid., p. 114. 

4 Leopold von Eanke's History of the Popes, I 8 , p. 156. 

* D. Kaufmann in the Seme des Etudes Juives, XXVII, p. 209, &c. 


storm. The grapes of Safed, which grew to a fabulous size and 
weight, made up to some extent for the loss of other food stuffs. 

Safed was a very busy place ; it was the centre of the entire 
clothing industry. The trade in wool and its manufacture maintained 
the inhabitants comfortably. The skill they had attained in the 
tailors' art drove Venetian competition completely out of the field. 
The growth of the city would, Moses thinks, make it in another ten 
years unrecognizable. The chief commercial towns in the vicinity 
were Beyruth and Trablous. The latter city, especially, attracted to 
itself all the trade that had formerly flourished in the Square of 
Damascus. Trablous was the market to which all caravans flowed. 
From it Jewish merchants started for Aleppo, the chief staple town 
for the whole of tbe Turkish Kingdom as well as for Persia. Con- 
sequently the Jews of those districts seldom had occasion to visit 
Venice. All necessaries of life and wares were brought to their very 

Most gratefully Moses notes the freedom which the Jews enjoyed 
under the Arabs — so different from the condition of his co-religionists 
in Italy. In Palestine and Egypt, Jews, he tells us, held the chief 
offices in the Customs. Hardly any taxes were imposed. That year, 
in consequence of the extraordinary expenditure incurred by the 
Persian war, the Jews were exceptionally asked to make advances of 
loans, secured partly by pledges, and partly by municipal revenues 
which they themselves collected. In accordance with an old insti- 
tution reinforced by the Egyptian Nagid, Isaac Cohen Sholal, 
scholars were exempt from every kind of burden except payment of 
the poll-tax. A list of the articles of commerce that come from 
Safed, and a eulogy on the salubrity of its climate, which renders the 
presence of a medical man unnecessary, and which restored his wife 
Sarah to perfect health, closes the letter, of which not one of the least 
noteworthy characteristics is, that its writer includes in his prayer all 
the inhabitants of his beloved fatherland. 

David Kaufmann. 

"rh an** D'ora 

in-i 133 V3 pr6 k-om wosn prn npoi nuisnn wvbn nny »a 
imp "\m ba n« oob Tsni i"y 03 vrb« 'in 3ibtine> no >sh mw? 
ibdun noNS3 v6ap -\m vnruta wtn "UPta vby ray nrwi 311 
-vb>k rbmn Truto nrsin oawjn "jrnsK Tibp tsi * -aye tik n 3 dy> 

1 =^ Monday, Feb. 8, 1535. 


mn 'narw no b "o ay naswt? dvo *b nay nmn b nt« v^k to 
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pny '03 nmoa pDy ->aai> T">nn tub) bbs pn o^ V^ N pb> isipa 
nnttt n^aa Von tanint* run mo miaan »a nnt? ra i>"sr uan ira 
man ton 2 n"ao mniaai i"y maa b mom noaa »a nma ta ai«6 tpyni 
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oe nDnn vmp mwn nnv m nam Tana * "i^bth D"nm nitron 
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moa DipD *iy wik d*6pi nunp ii> ounu mm nrh pnn dki D^aiym 
inx w nan «a Pianos wna • nra xwaa ^ tibd D^eyp nanm 
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niyo dh^j tnu Nini p^a niNwo bj^n D^yait? rue ^aa i$>tawn» 
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Visb jmi urn m^ 'n mai'pn eiaa^ ^na ^n neiy n"m ppn uunx 
s"a3in irlwa n^i Wan bs enn bi p« • "pn ieaa nisa '^pi d'« 
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'3'P b31 '3N31111P nD'BND 'TP1N W3 films "tKBOIDyP 'CW1 B>311 

B'3ip n3->m ans n3p 'xnp b'Baar 'dnpdip B'naN ''biana pbaba b'pk»3 
•\vtt B"1 • ac 'D'b netj* Nine' ibiaro ispa bsm n-iinob ''im'n ano 
mi33n • nnx aya3 a'abs rn^y ny3 b'pk>3D Bnm'n ay »)ibn new 
mo mi33m iny5 nan "jb3 nnpi 'ipy na an nr> H33 n^p nyjni 'nb3 
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1 Comp. Samuel Aboab, btnam in, No. 365 : dhow Drro Wtb ijfti n"«^>p 
Dn'W p-on rt3ia tpk ^ffiara D'in'Ji nV'st) 1 ;. 


na^bo nrh oyo m v w ckvoj D"bn px nr^n omoa p« "ind 
owppn tatf 1 tyhnm vnmo sarin rvw xh dp nud nb px nxiann 
ipai aiyi «na dsjiin p • nna wo na-im D^yibini now ^a-iai 
mnriB'N pim ni ntobtyN uot ba byi Da^by nban nb>ki nrwN onn» 
wanp bah n^b^ta new mcnpn nibnpn bah bnai >op Dsbab 
wnvm bah nso dh^n lanan oa^a nbnx • trips o^a Dbab wyivoi 
ltopn imp tivi wanix bah bbaa wart? bah cnaa udw unaai 
unan bine* ba oy obe^i mw nnoea rbb tb •aw "m 'ibe>b '•oca 

}dn u^a rnnoai wna 
anp nat? wwo hb ama o^nsn p jopn in aa^ns ind ind ram 
'ibe> am nans naDina l n"n ic: 6 -intyn iioyb 

1 = Sunday, Mar. 14, 1535,