Winner's Auctions No. 111

Important Historic Documents, Haskalah, Einstein, Seforim, Manuscripts and Letters from Rabbis and Rebbes

December 11, 2018
Opening $4,000
Estimate $6,000 - $8,000

Religious Ceremonies and Customs of all Peoples of the World. One volume incorporating approximately 227 beautiful engravings on full pages of thick paper, some spread over two pages. Rare copy incorporating all the engravings in one volume. Amsterdam, 1723-1738. First edition [?] in very fine condition.

Masterpiece by Bernard Picart which was dubbed "The Book that Changed the Face of Europe." As the book's title indicates, these books attempted to incorporate the customs and ceremonies of all the recognized religions of the world. The work actually laid the foundations of the study of religions and greatly influenced the representation of world religions in the Western World.

The work, or "Picart" as it was commonly known, broke all accepted conventions in the field. It presented all religions, even Pagan ones, equally and nonjudgmentally. It sought to promote religious tolerance by showing the undesirable consequences of fanaticism, for example by showing especially graphic pictures of executions and torture. However, it also praised religions, such as Islam, which were tolerant of others.

Picart dedicated a lot of space in this work to Jews, and even developed his work with them - this at a time that antisemitism in Europe was rampant. This work represents Jewish customs in a sympathetic manner, and includes a famous engraving of "Purim" in an Amsterdam synagogue, which covers two pages, and other works about Jewish customs: Sukkot, Passover, ritual circumcision, wedding, burial rites and more.

Picart was apparently quite familiar with the Jewish community of Amsterdam, and he even prepared an engraving for the book Tikkun Sofrim.

Although the books were confiscated by the Church, they were published in four languages (French, English, Dutch and German) and sold 4000 copies. The books have received renewed interest in recent years by religious scholars.

A unique and rare copy is before us, which was printed and bound apparently at the same time as the first edition, with a heartwarming change in which all the engravings were bound without the leaves of text and according to the order of the complete work, and without a title page.

[252] leaves. 39 cm. Very fine condition. Thick paper. White leaves. Color page cuts. Original leather binding, cracked at the sides of the spine.

Proclamations, Etchings and Graphics