This Object Thursday, we bring you a favorite: an important item of Rhode Island Judaica: A Lunar Calendar, of the Festivals, and Other Days in the Year, Observed by the Israelites (Newport: Newport Mercury, 1806 — Vault, CE 35 .L8).
This calendar — used to determine holidays and other important dates — reflects Rhode Island’s long tradition of religious freedom. The Touro Synagogue, for instance, is the nation’s oldest, completed in 1763 as a place of worship for a Jewish community that had been in Newport for over a hundred years.
A Lunar Calendar is the first Jewish calendar printed in America and only the second book printed for American Jews. (The Library also holds a copy of the first, A Sermon Preached at the Synagogue, in Newport, Rhode-Island, called “The salvation of Israel”. Both have recently been re-cataloged and re-housed.)
Moses Lopez, the author of the calendar, was born in Portugal and apparently also held a patent for the manufacture of potash.*
This copy includes the following inscription on the front pastedown: “Presented to Jacob J. Cohen by Naphtali Phillips, New York 11th Ce Adar, 5570″ [March 17, 1810].” The image below (click for a closer view) provides an idea of the calendar’s contents and includes annotations by, perhaps, Cohen:
Much to our delight, the Lunar Calendar was one of the items of interest to C-SPAN’s Book TV when they visited the RIHS Library this past Tuesday, December 4. The program on Providence will air in January. Check back or follow us for updates and links to the upcoming program.
* See George Mason’s Reminiscences of Newport (Newport: Charles E. Hammett, Jr., 1884), pages 56-7.