Niger, Stern des Meschiah, 1477

PETRUS NIGER (1434–1484).
Stern des Meschiah.
Esslingen: Conrad Fyner, 20 Dec. 1477. (06502)

The Stern des Meschiah (“Star of the Messiah”), a German translation of Petrus Niger’s Tractatus contra perfidios Judaeos, critiques the “errors” of the Jews concerning the Messiah. The text was based on the arguments used in the Dominican author’s public disputation with the rabbis of Regensburg in 1474. Conrad Fyner printed the first Latin edition in 1475 and this German translation two years later. Fyner’s Latin edition had been the first book printed in Germany to include Hebrew characters. Containing a rudimentary introduction to the Hebrew language, a misleading summary of Jewish beliefs, and transliterations from Hebrew sources, the Stern des Meschiah argued that Jews should convert to Christianity because their long-awaited Messiah had already arrived in the person of the “true” Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Two full-page woodcuts illustrate the book, one depicting the Messiah’s Entry into Jerusalem, and the other echoing Niger’s participation in the Regensburg colloquy by showing a disputation between a Dominican and a group of Jews. This hand-colored image caricatures the Jews by giving them ugly features and expressions, and they wear the compulsory yellow rotulus (ring) that marked Jews as outsiders in German society. Bridwell Library’s copy, exceptionally well preserved in its original calfskin binding, originally was owned by the Benedictines of St. Peter and St. Paul in Erfurt, Germany.

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Printing in Germany
Niger, Stern des Meschiah, 1477