Censored, but not lost

Isaac Abravanel (1437–1508).
Sefer Zebach Pesach.
Venice: Marco Antonio Giustiniani, 1545. (AFW8190)

Rabbi Abravanel’s commentary on the Hebrew Haggadah, first published at Constantinople in 1506, was written in Italy shortly after the author was forced to leave the Spanish royal court when the country’s Jews were expelled in 1492. As Venetian law did not permit Jews to own or operate printing presses, it was necessary for the financiers of this second edition to employ a Christian printer, Marco Antonio Giustiniani.

The final leaf of Bridwell Library’s expurgated copy bears the date 1617 and the signatures of two censors who were active in Mantua, Clemente Renatto and Giovanni Domenico Carretto. In the commentary accompanying Psalm 115, the censors’ ink deletions have corroded the paper, creating a large loss. Remarkably, a small fragment of uncensored text, formerly surrounded by the missing portions of this page, has survived loose within the book. In the translation of the expurgated text below, the deleted portions surrounding the fragment are struck through:

that the nations and the kingdoms are called dead even while they are still alive because their souls do not remain and they die completely. They did not praise the divine Name that gave them the land, which is why he says, ‘The dead cannot praise the Lord, nor can all who descend into silence,’ these being the nations that go down en masse into the grave, which is silence and stillness, and their souls do not remain.”

The Inquisition apparently considered this passage to be a denial of the Christian belief in salvation and renewed life after death.

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[Uncensored fragment: "The dead cannot praise the Lord."]

The Index of Expurgations
Censored, but not lost