Judaism in the East from Yemen to China

Benjamin, I[srael] J[oseph]. Eight Years in Asia and Africa From 1846 to 1855.

Hanover, published by the author, 1863.

8vo (150 x 216 mm). XXII, 376, (2) pp. With 4 lithographed and woodcut plates, one plan of Jerusalem, and one folding map of the author's itinerary. Modern red half calf over cloth covers with giltstamped spine-title. Marbled pastedowns. Top edge gilt.


Second English edition. An invaluable source of information on the Jewish communities of North Africa, the Near and Far East, especially in India and China. With a "List of Subscribers in Bombay", naming various members of the affluent Jewish Sassoon family, known as the "Rothschilds of the East", on the penultimate page.

Israel Joseph Benjamin (1818-64) was a Jewish lumber trader from Falticeni, Moldavia (present-day Romania), who at the age of 25 set out to find the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Fashioning himself "the Second Benjamin" after Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th-century Jewish traveller from Spain, he spent five years visiting Jewish communities in what are today Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Afghanistan, India, Singapore, China, and Egypt. His journeys took him twice through the strait of Hormuz and into the Gulf. After a brief return to Europe, he spent another three years in Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. He recorded the first five years of travels in a book that appeared in French in 1856 as "Cinq années de voyage en orient 1846-1851". He later combined his accounts of both sets of travels into an expanded book in German, published in 1858, under the title "Acht Jahre in Asien und Afrika von 1846 bis 1855". Translations into English and Hebrew followed in 1859, the present being the second English edition.

Of particular interest are the lively descriptions of economic and social conditions in various Jewish communities, among the most striking accounts figuring a somewhat desolate picture of Jewish life in China: "For the last 40 years they have had no Rabbis, being too poor to be able to support them [...] During the wars of the Tartars with the Chinese, a part of them went to the neighbouring province She-Kiang, and settled in Kangcheou [...] Many of them [went] to Arnoy in the province of Fokien. These homeless people are scattered in Pekin, and in the whole of China, and live everywhere in the same state of degredation and ignorance" (p. 204f.).

In excellent condition.


Röhricht 425. OCLC 15205852. Cf. Weber I, 526 (1865 French ed.). Jüdisches Lexikon I, 826f. Encyclopaedia Judaica III, 356 (other eds.). Not in Cordier.