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David Gans – Tzemah David

• David Gans, Tzemah David. Prague, Solomon ben Mordecai and Moses ben Joseph Bezalel Katz, 1592
• Acquired in 1946 as part of the pre-war Library of the Religious Community in Prague
• The collection of rare printed books and the library collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague

Title page of the second part of the chronicle – Yemot Olam

The historian, mathematician and astronomer David ben Solomon Gans was born in 1541 in Lippstadt, Westphalia. He received a religious education at yeshivot in Bonn, Frankfurt and Krakow, where he studied science and history. In 1564 he moved to Prague, where he died on 22 August 1613 and was buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery. Gans, a contemporary of the Maharal and Mordecai Maisel, maintained lively contact with a number of Christian scholars, such as Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler.

Passages focusing on the Maharal, Mordecai Yaffe and Mordecai Maisel

The chronicle Tzemah David (“Offspring of David”), one of three surviving works by Gans, is also the only historical and historiographical work by an Ashkenazic author of the early modern period. The first part briefly recounts Jewish history from the Creation to 1592. The second part, entitled Yemot Olam (“Days of the World”), deals with the history of the then known world and covers the same period. The chronicle is beneficial not only as part of the development of Jewish historiography, but also as a source of events from the author’s time, especially the sections focusing on the Prague Jewish Town. Gans made use not only of Hebrew sources, but also of non-Jewish chronicles, which are referred to in the preface and over the course of the book. The chronicle’s popularity was based on his endeavour to write a work of instruction and entertainment for the ordinary reader.

Report on the invention of book printing. It is emphasized by the addition of a crown, which elsewhere in the chronicle is reserved for the names of rulers

To mark the anniversary of Gans’s death, an international conference was held in Prague on 27–29 May 2013, entitled “David Gans (1541–1613) – Four Centuries On: The Legacy of the Early Modern Jewish Historian and Scientist.”

Tombstone of David Gans at the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

• Inv. No. 168.754, sg. 4.142
• Paper, half-leather binding, copy without the title page of the first work
• Frames of the title pages from the printer’s embellishments; printed in one column in Hebrew square script of several sizes; in the second part, the names of kings are adorned with crowns (woodcut).
• 64, [6], 125 l.; 4°, 18 x 14.5 cm

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