Almost five hundred years after his death, Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) remains a legendary figure of Sephardic history, and above all of the Expulsion of 1492. There are numerous“portraits” that have been painted of him by pre-modern and modern scholars. And still we hesitate and cannot discern which is the true one. This first critical edition of Abravanel’s Portuguese and Hebrew letters opens a unique window on a complex cultural process of assimilation and dissimulation of humanism among the fifteenth-century Jewish elite. On the one hand, it establishes Abravanel’s assimilation of Iberian humanism and of major aspects of the Petrarchian consolatio; on the other hand, it points at the strategies used by him to dissimulate and adapt humanism to Jewish leadership. The duality of Jewish humanists like Don Isaac was obviously a great richness, but it indicated as well their difficulty in expressing themselves coherently and comprehensively in one of the two agoras - Jewish or Christian – in which they were involved as literati and writers. The present edition and study of Abravanel’s Portuguese and Hebrew letters sheds a new light on the complexity of this new figure of the Jewish humanist.
Cedric Cohen Skalli,Shalem Center of Jerusalem, Israel.
"Les éditions Walter de Gruyter proposent pour la première fois une édition critique, une traduction et une étude conjointes des quatre lettres d'Isaac Abravanel [...]. L'étude, entièrement orientée vers une évaluation de l'integration de thèmes humanistes en monde juif, se serait peut-être trouvée enrichie par une analyse, en retour, de l'usage de thèmes juifs dans la lettre protugaise."David Lemler in: Revue des Etudes Juives 1-2.168/2009