Tzemach David by David Gans, 2nd edition, 1692 … and Arthur, King of England (the 400th post).


Rabbi David Gans (1541-1613) wrote his famous book Tzemach David, printed in Prague in 1592.  It was the first history book printed in Hebrew.  This is not a critical or analytical history book, as is usual today, but a chronology.  There were two parts, the first being a chronology of Jewish history, and the second a chronology of world history.  My copy, which was printed in 1692 in Frankfurt, was the second edition, with a third part, bringing the book up-to-date – to 1692.  The first engraved title page depicts King David and King Solomon, with four beasts representing the four exiles: Babylonian, Median, Greek and Roman. 

David Gans was a Rabbi, who had studied under Rabbi Moses Isserles in Cracow, and the Maharal of Prague (Rabbi Judah Loew ben Betzalel), and he was also a scientist and astronomer.  He was probably related to Joachim Gans, born in Prague, who became the first known Jew to live (briefly) in America.  Joachim Gans invented a new, more efficient process for smelting copper, and is mentioned in the Calendar od State Papers Domestic of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

I have scanned some extracts below, of which one of the most interesting is King Arthur (of the knights of the round table), recorded as being King of England in the year 537.  He is in the chronology as a historic person – not a legend, and there are other Welsh sources which place him in the late fifth century as a leader of the British fighting the Anglo-Saxon invaders.  It is not clear what was David Gans’ source for this.  (Thanks to Fred MacDowell, who drew my attention to this).

The second title page, below, says: See this as a new thing that never was before in the world…


Here is Achashveros, the King of Persia, and the story of Queen Esther…..



Here is the expulsion from Portugal, six years after the expulsion from Spain…


Gans records the first printing of Hebrew books by Daniel Bomberg in Venice….


This is the second part, with the secular years:


Julius Caesar….


Jesus the Christian was born in Bethlehem…


The first mention of the inhabitants of Britain “which is England” is in the year 449…


The year 537. “Artus” – Arthur, the great king of Angleterre, which is England, news of whose great victory over the Romans and the French went out to all the world. He is Arthur who songs were written about which many Germans sing about him to this day.




1666 was the year of the great fire of London….



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