Landmark books, those that have paved the way to entire fields of study and printing, are always exciting to come across. Particularly in the case of The Pinto siddur, which is the first of its kind in many ways, and in addition, is exceedingly rare. I was excited this week to be able to obtain a fine copy of this prayerbook, the first edition, printed in 1766 in New York.
This prayerbook, with an English translated by Isaac Pinto, is the very first prayerbook printed in the New World and the first translation into English. From Pinto’s introduction:
“[Hebrew] being imperfectly understood by many, by some, not at all; it has been necessary to translate our Prayers, in the Language of the Country wherein it hath pleased the divine Providence to appoint our Lot. In Europe, the Spanish and Portuguese Jews have a Translation in Spanish, which as they generally understand, may be sufficient; but that not being the Case in the British Dominions in America, has induced me to Attempt a Translation in English, not without Hope that it will tend to the Improvement of many of my Brethren in their Devotion.”
Isaac Pinto (1721-1791) was born in the Old World, into a rabbinic family originating in Portugal. Arriving in NY in 1751, he became a member of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel in New York, the oldest congregation in what became the United States and the only one in New York at the time. Privately, he was a merchant and a Spanish teacher, though he is best remembered today for this translation. He was also a vocal patriot, authoring several publications in support of American independence. Pinto corresponded with many leading philosophers and academics of his era, including Rabbi Isaac Karigal of Palestine and President Ezra Stiles of Yale College (who referred to him as “a learned Jew at New York”).
Asking price: $48,000.