The Miraculous Survival of 'The Case of the Jews Stated'

posted Sep 19, 2010, 2:38 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Sep 19, 2010, 2:59 AM ]
The mark of being a proper historian is that you work with original materials, primary sources from the period under investigation.  An historian is also a kind of detective, looking for clues that suggest a pattern.  We like to find things that no one has found before, so sometimes we make a fetish of manuscripts, since they seem so much more authentic and rare than printed sources.

Not always.  Sometimes there are more copies of a manuscript (hand written though it was) than there are of a printed source.

A good example is the anonymous hand-out entitled The Case of the Jews Stated (n.p.=London, n.d.=11 Nov. 1689).  The only copy in existence today can be found in the Inner Temple Library, London.  Were it not for the kindness of Mr W.W.S. Breem, librarian and keeper of manuscripts there, I would never have been able to see the document and take a photocopy of it.

The Case of the Jews Stated was a text handed out to Members of Parliament before an important debate in 1689 concerning the Jews.  As might be expected, many of them just tossed it into the rubbish, as we might do in a similar circumstance.  Only one copy was kept, and made its way into the Inner Temple Library, a kind of miraculous survival.

Even more miraculous is that when the Germans bombed the building in 1941, forty thousand volumes went up in flames...but not The Case of the Jews Stated.  Thanks to chance (or Higher Powers), this important document for the history of the Jews in England has come down to us.

Come to think of it, now that there are two copies (the original and my photocopy), it might be a good idea to launch it into cyberspace, just in case.  Here it is (CLICK TO ENLARGE):