Copyright University of Leeds
In 1650, Menasseh wrote a treatise on the Lost Tribes of Israel (Roth Collection 633), who had allegedly been rediscovered in South America. It was printed by his son Samuel ben Israel Soeiro, who managed the press between 1650 and 1652.
His treatise responds to an earlier work: the ‘Relacion De Aharon Levi, alias, Antonio de Montezinos’. Menasseh’s work reprints Montezinos’ text in its first 16 pages. Montezinos and Menasseh had met in Amsterdam in 1644.
Montezinos created a sensation with his travel report, which identified Peru as Ophir, Indian language words as Hebrew, and Indian tribes as the Lost Tribes of Israel. The idea had a long life in European literature.
Montezinos’ Jewish Indian theory was given guarded support in Menasseh’s book. That Menasseh’s work created a stir at the time is shown by the appearance of a simultaneous English translation, printed in London by one “R.I” for Hannah Allen at the Crown in Popeshead Alley. Its lengthy title was:
‘The hope of Israel: written by Menasseh ben Israel, a Hebrew divine, and philosopher. Newly extant, and printed in Amsterdam, and dedicated by the author to the High Court, the Parliament of England, and to the Councell of State. Translated into English, and published by authority. In this treatise is shewed the place wherein the ten tribes at this present are, proved partly by the strange relation of one Anthony Montezinus, a Jew, of what befell him as he travelled over the Mountaines Cordillære, with divers other particulars about the restoration of the Jewes…‘
The work was translated into English again in 1652, this time by Moses Wall, and published by Chapman as:
‘The Hope of Israel, written by Menasseh ben Israel; an Hebrew divine and philosopher; newly extant and printed in Amsterdam and dedicated by the author to the high court, the Parliament of England, and to the Councell of State; whereunto are added in this second edition some discourses upon the point of the conversion of the Jewes.’