Auction 86 - Part I - Rare & Important Items

Theodor Herzl – "Medinat HaYehudim" (Der Judenstaat) – First Hebrew Edition

Opening: $2,000
Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000
Sold for: $5,000
Including buyer's premium

"Medinat HaYehudim…" ("Der Iudenstaat…" "The Jewish State, a new approach [in the search] for a solution to the Jewish Question, translated under a special license from the author [Theodor Herzl] by Michael Berkowitz"). Warsaw: Tushiah, 1896. On front cover: Hebrew year 5657. Hebrew.
Theodor Herzl's historical landmark, the first work to ever articulate Herzl's Zionist vision of a Jewish state. First Hebrew edition. Published in 1896 – the same year as the original German edition – as part of the Tushiah publisher's series titled "Sifrei Am." Original front cover.
Bound into one volume with an additional (Hebrew) work, "Knesset HaGedolah…" ["The Great Assembly, or the Second Congress in Basel"], edited by Nahum Slouschz (Warsaw: Tushiah, 1898).
"Medinat HaYeudim": [1] front cover, [2] ff., iv, [1], 6-82, vi, [1] p. Back cover missing. "Knesset HaGedolah": 111, [1] p; approx. 17.5 cm. Good condition. Stains to several leaves (particularly to cover leaf). Minor creases and blemishes. Lower left corners missing from cover and title page of "Medinat HaYeudim." Handwritten notations and inked stamps on endpapers. Cloth-covered card binding, with leather spine (binding slightly damaged and somewhat loose; loss to spine).


Publication of Herzl's "Der Judenstaat"
The story behind "Der Judenstaat" – commonly translated as "The Jewish State" and widely regarded as the book that served as the founding statement of the Zionist movement – can be said to have begun with the "Speech to the Rothschilds, " composed by Theodor (Binyamin Ze'ev) Herzl in time for his meeting with members of the Rothschild family in 1895. This speech, 22 pages in length, laid out the preliminary outline for what would eventually become Herzl's grand landmark plan. This outline would gradually undergo a number of incarnations and versions before it sufficiently matured into a full-fledged plan, whereupon Herzl decided to turn it into a complete book.
According to Herzl's own account, the book was written all at once, in two months of non-stop writing, "walking, standing, lying down, in the street, at the table, at night when I started up from sleep…" Once completed, the manuscript would, for the first time, present Herzl's grand vision in all its glory – a detailed plan for the establishment of a Jewish state, stage by stage, beginning with the gathering and organizing of the Jews of the world, up until the enactment of a legal constitution and the adoption of a national flag. Regarding his thoughts and feelings at the time of the writing, Herzl said: "I do not recollect ever having written anything in such an elevated frame of mind as that book. [Heinrich] Heine says that he heard the wings of an eagle beating over his head while writing certain verses. I do believe that something also beat its wings above my head while I was writing that book."
Initially, no book publisher was willing to publish the book. Herzl found himself rejected by all his regular publishing companies, such as Duncker & Humblot, as well as the Berlin-based publisher Siegfried Cronbach, who insisted that anti-Semitism was a waning force throughout the world. In the end, Herzl turned to Max Breitenstein, a small bookseller in Vienna who agreed to print the book even though he did not share Herzl's beliefs, nor was he sympathetic to the Zionist cause.
In February 1896, a small edition of "Der Judenstaat" was finally published in German with the subtitle "An Attempt at a Modern Solution to the Jewish Question." In order to ensure the work would be treated with the seriousness he felt it deserved, Herzl added his academic degree – Doctor of Laws – to the authorship of the book.
Immediately upon publication, the book stirred up a maelstrom. A majority of public figures – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – viewed it as nonsensical and absurd; one particular Jewish newspaper editor even offered the use of his personal carriage to transport Herzl to an insane asylum. Among the book's initial opponents were such unlikely personalities as Hayim Nahman Bialik and Nahum Sokolow, the pioneer of Hebrew journalism who would one day become author of the first Hebrew translation of Herzl's "Altneuland." In the words of author Stefan Zweig, "never in Vienna had anyone been subjected to such ridicule as Herzl."
As agreed in advance, Max Breitenstein published three additional editions (distinguished from the original edition only in minute details on the respective covers and title pages) that same year. He published no subsequent editions of "Der Judenstaat."
Notwithstanding the scathing reactions of public figures and noted academics to "Der Judenstaat, " the book succeeded in igniting the imaginations of a great many readers in Europe and around the world, and new editions – in Yiddish, Russian, English, and other languages – appeared not long after the publication of the original German editions. One of the earliest editions to see the light of day was the Hebrew translation by Herzl's personal secretary, Michael Berkowitz. It was published by "Tushiah" in 1896, the same year as the first German edition. In its introduction, Berkowitz brought attention to two "corrections" that Herzl insisted upon in oral communications with him, and wrote the following (in Hebrew): "I hereby testify to two issues that relate in particular to the Hebrew translation… In the chapter [entitled] 'Language of the Land'… after he was made aware that a Hebrew-speaking readership exists for this book… a changed spirit took hold of him, as he was ensured that the Hebrew language could surely be rejuvenated… As to the place of settlement… he [likewise] changed his mind… and addressed his attention exclusively to the Land of our Forefathers."
In subsequent years, with the burgeoning of the Zionist movement and the convening of the early Zionist Congresses, the book came to be translated in yet more languages, and began to appear overseas, particularly in the United States, where Zionism quickly developed into a movement that carried weight and influence. In sum total, during Herzl's brief remaining lifetime, no fewer than 17 editions of "Der Judenstaat" were published – most in small editions numbering only a few thousand copies, and often in the form of thin, nondurable booklets. Dozens more editions were published following Theodor Herzl's passing, including translations into such languages as Ladino, Esperanto, Serbo-Croatian, and many others. It was to become one of the best-known Jewish works of all time.
References:
• Rephael Patai (ed.), The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl. New York and London: Herzl Press and Thomas Yoseloff, 1960. Vol. I, p. 24.
• Ritchie Robertson (ed.), The German-Jewish Dialogue: An Anthology of Literary Texts, 1749-1993. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. p. 150.

Category
Herzl. Zionism