Volterra, Meshullam ben Menahem, da

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VOLTERRA, MESHULLAM BEN MENAHEM, DA

VOLTERRA, MESHULLAM BEN MENAHEM, DA (Bonaventura di Manuele; 15th century), Italian traveler. Volterra was partner and later owner of his father's affluent loan-bank in Florence; he also traded in precious stones. He was interested in Jewish literature and philosophy, and was friendly with Lorenzo de Medici to whom he once sent a gift of game. In the spring of 1481 he set out for Ereẓ Israel in order to fulfill a vow made when he got into trouble in Florence. He sailed from Naples to Egypt by way of Rhodes, and then went by land over the Sinai peninsula, arriving in Jerusalem on July 29, 1481. After remaining about a month, he returned via Venice, where he arrived in October. Volterra wrote in Hebrew an account of his journey (Massa Meshullam mi-Volterra be-Ere Yisrael, ed. A. Yaari, 1949; abridged English translation in E.N. Adler (ed.), Jewish Travellers (1930), 156–208) which contains a wealth of information about the cities he visited – Alexandria, Cairo, Gaza, Hebron, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Beirut, Damascus – their Jewish communities and traditions; he also gives much information of economic interest. While occasionally noting local legends, he is often skeptical about them. He shows also some familiarity with classical literature. His style is readable and attractive although containing some grammatical errors and numerous Italian expressions. In 1487 Meshullam again left for a trip to the east for commercial reasons, traveling part of the way with R. Obadiah di *Bertinoro. Another Meshullam da Volterra, according to Abraham Portaleone, drew up in 1571 a price list of gems in the world market.

bibliography:

V. Cassuto, Ebrei a Firenze nell' età del Rinascimento (1918), 266–8; idem, in: Miscellanea storica della Valdesa, 27 (1919), 66–70; Sestieri, in: rmi, 10 (1935/36); 478–92; Milano, Italia 667.

[Menachem E. Artom /

Avraham Yaari]

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