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By Max Radin, Newton High School, New York City 

On examining the parchment cover of a copy of a 
ritual (Tikkun) for the community of Casale, printed at 
Venice, 1626, and belonging to the library of the Jewish 
Theological Seminary of America (cf. Van Straalen, Cat. of 
the Heb. Books in the British Museum, 1894, p. 143, col. 2), 
it was found that the inner portion contained a document 
of the character of which there could be little doubt. 

The piece of parchment is a fragment of a larger 
piece which must have been about fourteen inches wide. 
Before cut to fit the . book of which it was made the 
cover, it had been folded in the middle, so that of the 
left hand portion considerably more than half is missing 
and of the right hand somewhat less than half. That is 
to say, we shall have to understand between every line 
nearly another full line. 

Fortunately, however, it is a public document and, there- 
fore, largely formulaic in character. In spite of the serious 
gap to be filled in reading it, we can make out the sub- 
stance fairly well. It is an official transcript of a papal 
brief or breve, which the prothonotary Augustine of Cusa 
made at Rome in 1 587-1 588. 

The text is as follows: 

In Nomine .Sawctissimae et Individuae Trinitatis. 

1. — Augustinus Cusanus Prothonotarius Aplicus, S. D. N. 

Papae necnon Curiae causarum Camerae aphcae — 


2. — extra earn latarum ac lrarum aplicarum quarumcumq. 

universalis et moerus exequufor — 
3. — que pns publicum Transumpti Instum visuris lecturis 

et audituris salutem in Domino — 
4. — ut de his quae de Romani pontificis gratia processerunt 

ac in nro Tribunali coram — 
5. — uta ac registrata reperiuntur cum expedit aut ab ali- 

quibus petitur veritati Testimoni — 
6. Augustinus Cusanus Auditor et Judex prefatus tenu- 

imus et legimus et — 
7. — sub die nona mensis Decembris 1563, apud Acta 

infrascripti nostri notarii ex — 
8. — non cancellatum non vitiatum nee in aliqua sui parte 

suspectum sed omni prorsus — 
9. — ad futuram rei memoriam. Dudum accepto quod licet 

certum hebreorum volumen — 

10. — Republica Christiana Inquisitoribus gnalibus de man- 

dato nostro damnatum et — 
11. — Redemptorem nostrum eiusq. sanctissimum nomen et 

honorem blasfemias et ignominias continens — 
12. — hebreorum infra limites iurisdictionis suae consis- 

tentibus ex parte nostra intimarent et — 
13. — quibus nomen Jesu Salvatoris nostri quod hebraice 

Jesui hanozri dicitur cum blasphemia aut — 
14. — diligentissime exqUirerentur et qui libros hmoi penes 

se quoquo modo habere reperti forent de — 
15. — corporalibus etiam ultimi suppliciq. ac alias prout a 

fide christi appostantes — 

16. — habere hmoi omni diligentia inquirerent et studiose 
investigarent inquiriq. et investigari 

17.— ibili punirent, non permittentes de cetero 

eosdem hebreos a quibusvis etiam apl — 


18. — continerent nisi de expresso nrb mandato quomodo 

libet vexari aut molestari. Cum aut — 
19. — Salvatoris nostri cum blasphemia aut ignominiose 

nominabatur cassa deleta abolita seu abrasa — 
20. — reperiantur illi penes quos tales libri reperti fuerint 

tamquam habentes libros in quibus — 
21. — dubitandi materiam amputare volentes. Motu proprio 

et ex certa scientia nra per pns — 

22. — contra Christum Redemptorem nrum eiusq. sanc- 

tissimum nomen et honorem blasphemia — 
23. — cassis deletis abolitis et abrasis ut nullatenus legi pos- 

sint libros eosdem ita expurgatos et — 
24. — et locis publicis quam privatis domibus et alias ubiq. 

locorum habere et tenere absque aliquarum poena- 

25. — nominaretur. Ipsiq. Hebrei illos turn tenuerint et hab- 

uerint dummodo intra dies quattuor, menses — 
26. cumque Judices et Commisarios quavis auctoritate 

fungentes etiam Causarum Palatii Auditores in 

quavis — 
27. — et diffiniri debere ac si secus super his a quoquam 

quavis auctoritate scienter vel ignoranter 

28. — ariis quibuscumque. Datum Romae apud stum 
Petrum sub Anulo Piscatoris Die vigesima octava 
Decembris — 

29. Quarum quidem Irarum aplicarum sumptum ad in- 

stantiam et requisitionem 
30. — et exemplari ac in hanc publici Transumpti formam 

redigi mandavimus et fecimus volentes et — 
31. — adhibeatur eque ac si litterae ipsae originales in medium 

exhibitae aut ostensae forent. In Quorum 


32. — quo in talibus utimur iussimus et fecimus appensione 
muniri. Dat. Romae in Aedibus nris sub Ap — 

33. — Sixti Papae Quinti Anno Tertio. Pntibus ibidem DD. 

Scipione Grimaldo et Marco Antonio Bruto 

The exordium recites the formulaic section found in 
most papal bulls and briefs, authorizing the issuance of 
transcripts, cum expedit aut ab aliquibus petitur, "when it 
is deemed expedient or is required by any person or per- 
sons." Lines 1-5. (Cf. the section Ceterum quia difficile 
foret in the brief of Pius IV, Feb. 27, 1562.) 

The prothonotary, auditor and iudex — he boasts of all 
these titles — finds in his office a decree which he has him- 
self held, examined and read, and which contains no mark 
of erasure or cancellation (lines 6-9). This refers to 
the practice in the Papal registry, of marking documents 
no longer valid with the words Cancellatum, etc., in whole 
or in part. 

Then follows (lines 9-28) a copy in full of the papal 
letter or brief. 

Of this decree, the document before us is declared to 
be a true copy, and it is ordered, in accordance with the 
clause Ceterum quia difficile, mentioned above, that the 
same force and effect be granted to it as would be granted 
to the original. It is then dated in the third year of 
Sixtus V and witnessed by Scipio Grimaldi and Marcan- 
tonio Bruto. 

Who the persons are at whose instance and request 
(1. 29, sumptum ad instantiam et requisitionem) this copy 
was issued, unfortunately does not appear. 

But it is, of course, the papal letter or brief itself 
which chiefly attracts our attention. 


In substance it runs as follows: 

Although a certain book or certain books (certum he- 
breorum volumen, 1. 9; libri huiusmodi, 1. 14) of the Jews 
have been condemned as blasphemous by the Grand Inquisi- 
tor, and though those who, upon search, are found to possess 
them are subject to the same penalties as for apostacy, the 
various officials whose duty to investigate and search for 
such books is here re-emphasized, are not to permit general 
and unauthorized molestation of the Jews, inasmuch as, if 
all scandalous or blasphemous references to Jesus or to 
Christianity shall have been obliterated, it is expressly or- 
dered that these books may be freely kept and used any- 
where, either in public or private, provided, of course, that 
the books have been submitted to inspection. 

The bill is then dated December 28th, but the year is 
tantalizingly absent. 

Who is the pope who issues it and what relation has 
this decree to the many similar utterances of pope and coun- 

Two dates are given, one of the transcript, viz., the 
third year of Sixtus V, or 1587- 1588, and one other men- 
tioned in the body of the document, Dec. 9, 1563 (1. 7), 
which falls within the reign of Pius IV. 

We shall, however, look in vain either in special or 
general collections of papal documents for the decree before 
us. The fullest of these, the Magnum Bullarium Romanum, 
put together from the archives by Tomassetti in 1867 
under the auspices of Pius IX and published at Turin, con- 
tains an especially large number of documents of both the 
popes mentioned above, but not this brief. Nor again is 
it to be found in Stern's Urkundliche Beitrdge, nor in the 
numerous discussions either of the period or of the sub- 


ject. We may, therefore, assume that it is a new and un- 
published document of which we must determine the rela- 
tion and effect. 

The agitation against the Talmud, fostered chiefly by 
apostates, was already of long duration by the beginning of 
the sixteenth century, and culminated finally in the public 
burning of the book and in its prohibition. But on March 
24, 1564, a breve was issued confirming the Tridentine In- 
dex. Pius IV, for reasons, perhaps not the most creditable 
(cf. Graetz, IX, 3rd ed., Breslau, 1891, p. 368, note), per- 
mitted the printing of the Talmud without that title and 
after expurgation. 

This qualified tolerance had been rendered nugatory 
by the severe repressive measures of Pius IV's successors. 
In 1586, just as some twenty years before had been done 
under Pius IV, a deputation waited on Sixtus V and 
pleaded for permission to print and possess copies of the 
Talmud. Sixtus, in his decree of October 22, 1586, gave 
the permission sought for with the usual stipulation of pre- 
liminary censoring. 

If the dates mentioned (cf. Graetz, IX, 368, and 470, 
and Bullarium Magnum, 7, p. 167, and 8, p. 789,) are con- 
sidered, it is evident from the date of the decree here tran- 
scribed, December 28 (1. 28), that it is identical with neither 
of the two just referred to. Both position and phrasing 
(sub anulo Piscatoris, ibid.) make it impossible to refer the 
date, December 28, in this document, to anything else than 
the Papal brief itself. 

As it stands, it would not be impossible to connect it 
with the document of 1586. For, although in the article 
by Deutsch, Jewish Encyclopedia, X, 127 a, it would seem 
that the bull was wholly devoted to the subject of censor- 


ship, and Graetz, IX, 470, seems to confirm that statement, 
the bull itself as it appears in the Bullarium Magnum 
(supra) and, indeed, as Graetz himself states (IX, 468), 
was in reality a general grant of privileges and refers to 
the specific matter of printing only by implication.* This 
document, if it were shortly before the transcript in time 
would in a measure complete the bull of 1586. 

Two things, however, make it impossible to place it in 
this period. First, the true copy here issued is expressly 
stated to have been of a document found recorded and 
registered in the office (apud acta infrascripti notarii, 1. 7) 
and not in any way cancelled or suspicious. This does not 
point to a recently issued decree. 

Secondly, and most important of all, no restoration of 
missing words between lines 6 and 7 can escape the infer- 
ence that the document so registered bore the date (of 
registration) December 9, 1563. 

Since the Papal brief is dated December 28, it follows 
that the omitted year cannot be later than 1562. 

It is obvious that if, in 1586, a bull or other decree had 
been issued permitting the printing of Hebrew books, no 
one, in 1587, would think of falling back upon a document 
of 1562 or earlier. The statement, then, so frequently made 
that the bull of 1586 did that very thing, viz.: lifted the 
prohibition of the Talmud and other Hebrew books, is 
based upon a misapprehension of the effect of that decree. 

* Graetz found the bull only in Coqueline's Collectio, IV, 4, No. 69. The 
above-mentioned Bullarium, however, contains it, in its regular chronological 
place. — The term "bull" has been used for this decree, in accordance with the 
statements of the various writers who have discussed it. Strictly, however, 
it is no more a bull than the document here published. Both are signed 
sub anulo Piscatoris and are therefore briefs. Bulls are sealed with the bulla. 
The distinction, to be sure, had ceased to be of seriius moment in the latter 
half of the sixteenth century. 


As before stated, the decree was of the most general 
character and meant for the widest publicity. The technica. 
portions, i. e. exordium and conclusion, are in Latin, the 
main body, however, is in Italian. Not only that, it is in- 
tended to abrogate (subject to the etiquette necessary to a 
system in which direct abrogation is impossible), the re- 
strictions successively imposed on the Jews by Pius V and 
those after him. It consciously restores, therefore, the 
conditions obtaining under Pius IV. Naturally, Jews, who 
desired protection in their rights, would supply themselves 
with copies of those documents of Pius IV, to which, we 
may say, the bull of October 22, 1586, had given a renewed 

But the bull of February 27, 1562, mentioned above 
(incorrectly dated 1555 and referred to Paul IV, Jewish 
Encyc, X, 129), was also of general indulgence and makes 
no mention of books or censorship. Again, it was not until 
1563, after the brief here transcribed, that the deputation 
of Italian Jews visited Pius IV, to obtain permission to 
print the Talmud. 

But is it the Talmud, after all, which is here permitted ? 
The phrase "certum hebreorum volumen" occurs in line 9. 
It is easily possible that the actual word Talmud was found 
in the missing portions. All this is in the earlier portion 
of the decree. Later on, when the expurgated books are 
mentioned, it is tales libri, libri huiusmodi, etc. Again ir 
the earlier portion, special attention is given to the name 
Jesui hanozri (1. 13), which is stated to be the Hebrew 
equivalent for the name of Jesus. This would also point 
to the Talmud, or to the Toledot Yeshu. 

If we were then to understand the decree before us 
as stating that, while it had long been decided to forbid 


certum hebreorum volumen, viz. : the Talmud, other Hebrew- 
books, if properly expurgated, were free, we have an intelli- 
gible version of a document which, otherwise, would have 
rendered the Tridentine Index and the bull embodying it 
unnecessary. That non-Talmudic books were, even after 
the decree of 1559, allowed, though reluctantly, we know 
(cf. Porges, Jewish Bnc, III, 648 a). Just as at Cremona, 
in the incident there recorded, so at Rome on appeal to a 
well-disposed Pope like Pius IV, over-zealous inquisitors 
may have been warned that the decree of 1559 included only 
the Talmud and not all Hebrew books. 

A point deserving attention, and fixing probably the 
date of this brief at 1562, is that the opening words "dudum 
accepto" are an echo of the opening words of the bull of 
February 27, 1562, "Dudum a felicis recordations Paulo, 
etc.". To be sure, the cases might be reversed and the 
latter document might be an echo of the former. Still from 
the vastly more important character of the decree of Feb- 
ruary 27, this hypothesis seems less probable.