Auction 78 Rare and Important Items
By Kedem
May 25, 2021
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LOT 114:

"Sefer Barkai" by Naftali Herz Imber with his own Handwritten Dedicatory Inscription – First Printing of "Hatikvah" ...

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"Sefer Barkai" by Naftali Herz Imber with his own Handwritten Dedicatory Inscription – First Printing of "Hatikvah" – Jerusalem, 1886
"Sefer Barkai…" [Book of the Shining Morning Star], by Naftali Herz Imber. Jerusalem: M. Meyuhas Press, 5646 [1886]. Hebrew and some German.
First book of poems by Naftali Herz Imber (1856-1909), notably including his poem "Tikvatenu" ("Our Hope"), which would in time develop into "Hatikvah, " anthem of the Zionist Movement, and ultimately the anthem of the State of Israel.
On the back of the title page is a dedicatory inscription, handwritten in German and Hebrew by Imber himself and partly cut off: "Dem Manne [?] sein Volkes [Head of?] the 'Moshava' [Colony] of Rosh Pinah, this notebook is a souvenir [for] the generous one, who is young in years [and] fatherly in wisdom, Yitzhak Ettinger. From the author, Rosh Pinah 5647 [1886/87]". [The dedication is apparently to Emil Yitzhak Ettinger, deputy director of the moshava of Rosh Pinah in the years 1886-87; see below].
According to his own account, Naftali Herz Imber wrote the first draft of the words to the poem then known as "Tikvatenu" ("Our Hope") in 1877/78 while he was living in Iași, Romania. A different source, cited by the Hebrew-language "Encyclopedia of the Pioneers and Founders of the Yishuv" (p. 1586), states that the original words were written in 1886, while Imber was thoroughly intoxicated, having drunk profusely in the course of the Purim festivities at the moshava of Gedera. According to this source, Imber arose from his stupor to declare that he had "just now composed the first two verses to our national song, which shall give expression to our hope." Subsequently, while touring the various moshavot of Palestine, Imber altered the words and added verses. Eventually, the work was published in its final draft (for the time being) in Imber’s collection of poems titled "Sefer Barkai". Roughly a year after the publication of the collection, Shmuel Cohen (1870-1940), one of the young "halutzim" (Jewish pioneers) of Rishon LeZion, took an existing melody and set it to the words of the poem. Cohen's work was an adaptation of a traditional melody with Slavic roots, associated with Romanian coachmen. The Czech composer Bedřich Smetana made use of an almost identical tune in his famous symphonic poem "Vltava" (also known as "The Moldau").
With its ethereally beautiful new melody, the song was enthusiastically adopted by the settlers of the moshavot. From there it traveled to Europe and was quickly embraced by the Zionist Congresses, to be sung at the conclusion of each session. Years later, the song was renamed "Hatikvah" and the Hebrew lyrics gradually underwent a number of changes. The main changes were introduced in 1905, when the line "to return to the land of our fathers, to the city where David had encamped" was exchanged for "to be a free people in our country, the Land of Zion and Jerusalem" and the words "the Age-Old Hope" were turned into "the Hope ["Hatikvah"] of Two Thousand Years." Though not officially sanctioned at the time by law or decree, the first two verses of the song became almost universally accepted as the national anthem of the Jewish people. In 1933, Hatikvah gained recognition as the anthem of the Zionist movement. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, it was unofficially adopted as the national anthem. This recognition was not officially grounded in law until 2004.
Naftali Herz Imber was born in Złoczów (today Zolochiv), Galicia (then a region of the Austrian Empire, today part of Ukraine). He was given a traditional Jewish education up to his teenage years, but while still a youth he embraced the "Haskalah" (Jewish Enlightenment) movement, and shortly thereafter, Zionism. After wandering through Eastern and Southern Europe, taking on assorted occupations, in 1882 he chanced upon the Christian Zionist author, journalist, and British Member of Parliament, Sir Laurence Oliphant (1829-1888), to whom he dedicated his book of poetry, "Sefer Barkai." Oliphant happily took the young poet under his wing, and brought him along when he took up residence in Palestine, where Imber served as his personal secretary. In Palestine, Imber was mostly supported by Oliphant and his wife, Alice. Imber’s relationship with the Jewish settlers in Palestine was complex; on one hand, he was filled with profound admiration for the "halutzim", spent a great deal of time getting to know the various moshavot, and found many enthusiastic readers for his poetry among the people there; on the other hand, he never ceased to quarrel with the appointed officials of the preeminent patron of the Yishuv, the Baron Edmond de Rothschild. In the "Polemic of the 'Shmitah'" (1887-89) – a halakhic discourse in search of an appropriate approach to the biblical commandment requiring farmers to leave their fields fallow every seventh year – Imber sided with the Rabbinical establishment, and through his poetry, took issue with the representatives, supporters, and patrons of the New Yishuv, specifically the Baron Rothschild, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, and Eliyahu Scheid; apparently, his excoriation of the Baron's clerks for their corruption and ineptitude was at least to some extent in response to the harsh criticism personally leveled against him at the time for accepting money and medical care from his benefactor, Laurence Oliphant, and from various Christian missionaries. Nevertheless, Imber's stance on these matters was far from consistent; at times he actually showered praise on the Baron’s personnel, particularly when they catered to his material desires.
Following the passing of Alice Oliphant, Sir Laurence left Palestine, and Imber was deprived of his patron. Shortly thereafter, he returned to his wandering lifestyle, visiting India and spending time in London before finally settling in the United States. He died in New York in 1909 and was buried there, but was reinterred in Israel, in Jerusalem’s Har HaMenuhot Cemetery, in 1953.
Imber apparently dedicated the present copy of Sefer Barkai to a French Jew by the name of Emil Yitzhak Ettinger, a senior appointee in the administrative apparatus established by the Baron Rothschild in Palestine in the years 1885-96. From the summer of 1886 to the winter of 1887, Ettinger assumed the role of deputy director of the moshava of Rosh Pinah, while also serving as a French teacher. In the years he spent in Palestine, he filled a number of different administrative positions on behalf of the Baron, until finally retiring from the Baron’s staff in 1896 and returning to Paris.
VI, [2], 127, [1] pp., 15.5 cm. Good condition. Stains. Minor creases. Minor tears to edges of several leaves. Card binding, with minor abrasion and blemishes. Tears to length of spine. Boards partly detached. Strip of adhesive tape reinforcing line of contact between front binding and title page. Remnants of stickers on spine.
Reference: Eliyahu HaKohen, "Od Lo Avda Tikvatenu" ["Our Hope has Not been Lost"], "Ariel, " Issue no. 186, January 2009 (Hebrew), pp. 101-104.