|Carben, Victor von (1442-1515)|
Opus aureum ac novum, et a doctis viris diu expectatum, domini Victoris de Carben, olim judei, sed modo christiani et sacerdotis, in quo omnes Judeorum errores manifestantur qui hactenus nobis ignoti fuere. Declarantur etiam in hoc opere omnes Judeorum mores, quos circa quecunque opera exercere consueverunt, ac tandem (id quod inauditum est) ex Veteri tantum Testamento convincuntur. G. Ortwini Gratii bonarus artium professoris in emendationem huius pulcherrimi operis epigramma luculentum.
Cologne: Henricu[m] de Nussia, 1509
Quarto: 20 x 14.3 cm.  pp. A6, B-P6/4
FIRST LATIN EDITION (printed in German in 1508, also by De Nussia). Bound in modern blind-ruled calf. Illustrated with 2 small metal cuts and 2 full-paged woodcuts (one if which is printed twice.) The two metal cuts did not appear in the German edition. A fine copy with good margins and some contemporary notes to the opening signatures. With a paper repair to the lower margin of leaf H1. Very rare. OCLC locates 3 copies in the U.S. (NYPL, Hebrew Union College, Texas) and 2 copies of the German edition (Cornell, NYPL).
I. The four illustrations:
1 & 2: The two small metal cuts on leaf H1 verso show the Presentation in the Temple and the Nativity (each measures 4.7 x 6.9 cm.). These metalcuts derive from a set used in Bertholdus, Horologium devotionis. Cologne: Johann Landen, [about 1498], Goff B-507, which has a cleaner impression of precisely the same plate. Richard Field, Fifteenth Century Woodcuts and Metalcuts (Washington, National Gallery, 1965), no. 296-315, etc. mentions that there were numerous copies of this series. He illustrates an earlier set from the Rosenwald collection. (The Presentation in the Temple is Field's no. 301.) All variations were made in and around Cologne, beginning c. 1460-80
3. The first of the full-paged woodcuts (H3 verso, repeated on P4 recto) measures 15.9 x 9.4 cm. and shows the Virgin and Child with a smaller figure -undoubtedly intended to be Carben himself- kneeling in adoration. The image of Carben is probably derived from the sculptural group of St. Anne, The Virgin & Child with Carben as donor, in Cologne Cathedral, one of 7 sandstone sculptures donated by Carben around 1500. The Virgin speaks the words of Ecclesiasticus: "Ego mater pulchræ dilectionis, et timoris, et agnitionis, et sanctæ spei. In me gratia omnis [viæ et veritatis]. Transite ad me, omnes qui concupiscitis me…" and a second, this time monitory- quotation from Proverbs 8:36: "Qui in me peccaverit, ladet animam suam. Omnes qui me oderunt, diligunt mortem."
4. The second full-paged woodcut (Leaf I4 verso) (15.6 x 9.6 cm.) combines two scenes: grapevines with clusters of grapes with a quotation from the dream of Pharaoh's baker in Genesis: "Videbam coram me vitem, in qua errant tres propagines, crescere paulatim in gemmas" ("I saw a vine before me, on which were three branches: and it was as though it budded [and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes]".) The second image is of a donkey and her foal tethered to the vine, with the quotation from Ecclesiastes "Funiculus triplex difficile rumpitur" ("The triple chord is difficult to break.") The image, however, is from Genesis: "He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.
|Location of Origin: Europe|
|Dimensions: Quarto: 20 x 14.3 cm.|
|Primary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Antiques Books and Historical Books|
|II. Von Carben's "Opus Aureum": A New Genre in the Polemic of Jewish Conversion|
"Converts from Judaism contributed a distinctive chapter to the Jewish-Christian polemic. In early modern German lands, they introduced 'Jewish ceremonial life, as it was currently practiced', a new subject, into the oldest religious argument…
"As in any emerging genre, the earliest works about Jewish ceremonial defy easy categorization… Unlike medieval polemical works, these purported to describe actual Jewish religious and cultural practices, gestures, words, or ritual objects, rather than belief systems… Writing books about Jewish life remained occupations of immense practical and psychological importance for converts, who remained the most significant cohort of authors for this literature. Like their autobiographies, these books bridged their Jewish and Christian selves…
"The first convert from Judaism whose name can be linked to the new genre was Victor von Carben (1442-1515). By the time he arrived in Cologne, the city had permanently expelled its Jews (1426) and became a citadel of Dominican zeal. Both von Carben and Johannes Pfefferkorn appear to have been working under the influence of the Cologne Dominicans. It remains unclear how much of the work appearing under his name was written by von Carben and how much by the Dominican Ortuin Gratius. Gratius may have translated the book into Latin, or he may have played an even greater role in the creation of von Carben's book…
"Von Carben's 'Opus Aureum', on the 'errors' of the Jews, contained four sections; the first concentrated on the life and customs of the Jews. The arrangement of Von Carben's material appears to be disorganized and follows no logical order. Several introductory chapters include autobiographical material. These are followed by attacks on the Talmud, interrupted in mid-chapter by 'ethnographic' material: 'How Jews marry, their weddings, ring ceremony, etc.' Chapter 16 of the book promises a discussion of how much the Jews hate the Christians and how they observe their Sabbath, a non sequitur that the text does not bridge; chapter 18 contains subjects unrelated to one another: 'The blessings of the Jews before and after meals; how they divorce and take another wife.'…
"Women figure heavily in von Carben's work. Converted late in life, at age fifty, his wife and three children did not follow him into Christianity. In some chapters von Carben's remarks seems to be autobiographical. One chapter is titled, 'How many a Jew becomes a Christian when he is not hindered by his wife.' In conjunction with this an explanation is offered why Jewish women are more steadfast in their faith than Jewish men. Perhaps for deeply personal reasons, von Carben implicated Jewish women in everything negative and hostile about Judaism. 'How the Jews, woman and man, curse the Christians;… that Jewish women are much more hateful than Jewish men.' In the story von Carben marshaled to prove his point, a Jewish mother wanted to kill her own son when he showed signs of leaning toward Christianity. In a similar vein, von Carben reported that 'when a Jew, deserving the death penalty because of his misdeeds, was taken to be burned, Christians sympathized and asked out of mercy, 'Do you want to be baptized and become Christian? If so, you can spare your life and stay with your wife and children.' The man looked at his wife in misery, as though he might wish to do this. The woman notices this and worries, out of mortal fear, that her husband will be swayed. She takes her children under her arm and jumps into the fire, like sheep with no sense. Would you believe that the obstinacy of the woman was greater than that of the man?'
"Even as his work emphasized the obduracy of Jewish women, von Carben reached out to them as having the most to gain from conversion… His consideration of women as independent targets for conversion and his characterization of their role in Jewish life were utterly novel."(Carlebach, Revealing the Secrets of Judaism, The Literature of Jewish Ceremonial, in Divided Souls, Converts from Judaism in Germany (1500-1750), p. 176 ff.)
Panzer VI, 368, no. 190; Proctor 10560; VD 16 V 969; Richard Field, Fifteenth Century Woodcuts and Metalcuts (Washington, National Gallery, 1965), no. 296-315. See Lehrs' Kritischer Katalog III. Not in Fairfax-Murray
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