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familiedocumenten/the travels of Moses Cassuto p.9
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The travels of Moses Cassuto, 1733-1735 and 1741-1743
A unique document is the diary of Moses Vita Cassuto, written in the first half of the eighteenth century and describing his two journeys, one to Palestine and one to England and Holland.
On this page a part of the summary of this diary describing the last stage of this second journey to England and the Netherlands: back from the Netherlands via Germany and Austria to Florence

to the first journey to Palestine

second journey: from Florence to London

from London to Amsterdam
from Holland via Germany back to Florence


from Holland via Germany back to Florence

Diamonds from Brazil

Then he gives the history of the discovery of the Brazilian mine.
Speaking of the substitution of inferior goods for those of better quality , he says :

'This cannot happen with diamonds, where human skill is of no help to plant and harvest them,
for the mine is created by God and it requires no man's ability and is of little avail to know where these mines are.
Indeed, in this case in our time it happened, not by human effort or intelligence but by pure accident, that such small uncut diamonds were found in Brazil.
Little children were playing with them to pass the time and amuse themselves in the public streets, perhaps brought in this way from far afield for the purpose.
Here a monk made same observations on it; it seemed to him something not so usual and he believed he could make a good account of them in Europe if they were worked up as they were, even if they were ordinary stones.
He undertook the task and began to test it in Lisbon; but the lapidaries who agreed to work for him could not find a wheel that would reduce them. They knew that the good monk had told them that he had brought them from Brazil but the idea never even occurred to them that diamonds might be found there, as nothing of the kind had ever been heard of.
'Seeing that the stones could not be worked with wheels of other stones, they placed them on those of diamonds and found them to be of the same hardness,
but were not satisfied that they were diamonds. After working them, they put them beside those of the old mine and saw that they were alike.
All the same, they did not dare to call them diamonds, but called them diamond-hard stone.
They sent a small portion of this unworked stone to London, where they recognised them as real diamonds and wrote that they should send whatever quantity they had.
The matter became somewhat known but was not disclosed at all pub1icly and remained known only to certain persons of London and Lisbon, who wrote to Brazil that they should arrange to collect all those 1ittle stones and send them a good quantity.
Those who knew the secret protected themselves by saying and encouraging the be1ief that the quantity and the good price were due to a ship from Goa that had been captured by pirates carrying a large cargo of diamonds.
'Those merchants who had the stones from Brazil arranged to get rid of them for fear that the fact should be discovered and offered them at any price compared to the usual.
But by pure accident the affair became public; stocks were reduced to an excessively low price, because they were so plentiful.
Naturally the stones from Brazil quickly caught up with stones which had been distributed over many years. In this way in 1734 there came to be released in London and Amsterdam raw crystalline diamonds of 4 to 8 grains each, at 18 lire (pounds) or 19 lire a carat, which means 4 grains a carat.
This price held for some weeks till everyone was loaded with them, and they found no buyers at any price. This caused the great harvest lasting for many years now to be described.
Therefore, in extracting them from the mines, where they can arrange that they should be scarce,
some English merchants find it very useful to take a lease from the King of Portugal in spite of the great expenses and the sum that they had paid.
In 1735 they began to rise in price, and today, while there are the two mines, the old and the new, diamonds have come to be worth more than they were worth when they only had the old mine.
This is due to the growth of luxury in the world and in the larger monarchies, which formerly did not indulge in it.

Diamonds in Amsterdam

Since we are talking of diamonds, I must say that I have seen in the city of Amsterdam a diamond of 4 to 6 grains cut into 8 or 16 pieces, and in view of the demand for small brilliants, which are much sought after everywhere for adornment, they find it better and more useful to sell them in 8 to 16 pieces made from one rather than sell the stone entire.
'It all comes down to the idea of making a great price prevail for what is in demand, and not according to the law of cost and worth. This study was begun by a Dutchman. Seeing that in the raw stones there was not such a great amount of small ones as there were large commissions flowing in, from that time, when the new mine was discovered, many became rich and many were ruined.
As a result today we have the two qualities of stones as in all other forms of merchandise but without difference of price, because there is no longer any difference between the new mine and the old and they are sold in London and Amsterdam at the same price'.

The gardens of David de Pinto

Before leaving Amsterdam, he visited the famous gardens of Senhor David de Pinto at Overton,
two hours' journey from Amsterdam. It had avenues of trees cut 80 as to form spreading espaliers,
with water-works and basins - 0ne in particular isolated from the rest adorned with arabesques of earth, decorated all round with statues of marble and gilded lead, which is much used in Holland, urns, marvellous grottoes, pools stocked with fish, flowers, and fruit trees and bushes, with little dames here and there, on the roads or on the cana1s, where people could rest, chat, and play, or drink tea and coffee and watch the people pass by land and water.
He also had a well-furnished palace there.
This brought out (one regrets to observe ) an occasional tendency to snobbery in our traveller .
'I left happy', he says, 'for having learned that at different times there had trodden the same ground Cosimo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, Giovanni Gastoni I, when he was Prince, Princess Anna the Electress of the Palatinate, and Francis III, Duke of Lorraine, now Grand Duke of Tuscany, who were all entertained with ample refreshments and were very graciously pleased with the customary generosity practised by Seiior David de Pinto and his predecessors'.

On 5 August 1742 his companions from Livorno left him to return to Venice: Jacob Belillios and his servant, Abram Jesurum, and David Cassuto.
His own path took him from The Hague to Rotterdam and from Rotterdam by way of Antwerp, which he describes at length, then back to Amsterdam, where he spent another hard spring and remained to spend the Passover with his Dutch friends. see note*

From Amsterdam to Germany

On 17 April1743 he left Amsterdam in a post-chaise with an Italian, his servant having remained behind to wait for letters from home and some other tasks.
After a heavy snowstorm, he passed Amersfoort, Deventer, then crossing the frontier to Cologne and Hausenbruck (Osnabruck) in Brandenburg [ sic ], where he spent five days awaiting his servant,
then crossed the Weser to Hanover, which he reached on 26 April; then on to Brunswick, Wolfenbuttel, and Halberstadt, Prussian Brandenburg.

Here he visited the synagogue of the Jews, which lay in a place open on all sides.
One entered into a large court- yard, then into the synagogue itse1f, which was of oval form.
It had a most beautiful altar, with two large columns of marble and a pulpit of brass magnificently pierced in open-work. It had an abundance of lamps, and the ladies' gallery was very spacious. On either side of the altar were two large posters- one written in the vernacular and the other in Hebrew. The first contained the Prayer for the King, to be recited pub1icly on Sabbaths and festivals ; the other contained the blessing for the people.

He passed through 'Ascelom' (Aschersleben), crossed the river Sa1a (Saale) through 'Chinder' to Ala (Halle), in Prussia, to Leipzig in Saxony, the scene of the annual Fair, which he describes.
He then went to the Palace of the Elector of Saxony, who is the King of Poland, and waited on him to show him a great jewel. He describes the scene at a royal banquet.
In this city there are some synagogues of the Jews where prayers are said during the Fair but for the rest of the year they are closed, as there are no Jews dwelling in Saxony. There are only two Jewish houses in Dresden-one for the mint and the other for different affairs of the King, but at the time of the Fair foreign Jews come to Leipzig to the number of 20,000 or 30,000 from all parts, especially from Poland, where they are innumerable.

On 13 May he left Leipzig for Wittenberg, in Saxony, and Potsdam. The city of Potsdam is described and it is noted that there was one synagogue here. For the moment a1l were preoccupied with the celebrations on 17 May commemorating King Frederick's victory over the Queen of Hungary (Maria Theresa ) two years before. He then was honoured with an audience with the King, in order to offer him a great jewel, though he knew that his Majesty had no wish to buy it.

The King received him willingly, and examined the jewel carefully, speaking of it and other things in Italian, for three-eighths of an hour and then took out a snuffbox and offered him tobacco and filled Cassuto's tobacco box himse1f. Cassuto kept the tobacco for a year and then gave it away to a friend.
Then the King invited him to the Opera at Berlin the following week, when an Italian opera company, known to Cassuto, were performing.

On 19 May he left Potsdam for Berlin, which is duly described.
The synagogue of the Jews, he says, is the most beautiful and the largest he has seen in Germany. It has a spacious courtyard, then the ante-port leads into the building. It is rich in chandeliers, with a great altar on columns and a pulpit of shaped and pierced bronze. There are in Berlin some thousand(s) of Jews, not of extraordinary wealth, though comfortable, without any of the lower sort; they can live where they will, and occupy office or ply the crafts they wish.
(The opera was performed by Porporino, Stefanino, Leonardi, La Gasperina, La Lopia, La Monteni, and had a ballet with
seven men and seven ladies, all French, with commentary by Bottarelli, a Florentine monk of the Annunziata.)

On the evening of 21 May he left Berlin in a post-chaise for Frankfort.
From Frankfort, in Prussia, he passed various villages to Breslau, capital of Si1esia.
Here he remained two days.
There were some hundreds of Jews there, with a small synagogue.

After Olmutz (now Olomouc), in Moravia, he arrived at Prostnitz (now Prostejoci) on the eve of the Feast of Roses (the Pasqua di Rose) ; there were 600 Jews in this city, with three synagogues, with whom he celebrated the festival.


He left Prostnitz on 30 June for Vischau (Vyskov) and Brunn, then on to Leichsburg, in Austria,
where he stayed two days ; there were two thousand families of Jews there, some being wealthy and we1l reputed through Moravia. He left on Saturday night, 1 July, for Vienna.
The Queen was at this time absent in Prague for her coronation as Queen of Bohemia.
On this occasion, a Jew of Vienna presented her with a folio decorated within and without containing a poem; but the poem could not be seen until the Jew was sent for, and he showed them that it was written on the fore-edge of the paper. It was great1y admired by all. Magnifying glasses were produced, and praise showered. The Queen placed it among her treasures and rewarded him with 300 ungheri.

Back to Florence

On 9 July he left Vienna for Gratz, to Lubljana, Carniola, Gorizia.
Then from La Motta to Forretta, past Venice to Ferrara by boat, then by post-chaise to &Iogna, then by Loiano and Firenzuola to Florence.

From the Ponte Rosso, outside the Porta S. Gallo, he sent his servant into the city to get the keys of the Villa Tartari above S. Martino a Mensola, whither he went in a caleche. The keys arrived, sent by Jacob Compagnano and Elia Perez, young business men, together with some provisions for dinner, after which he went to bed in blessed peace to rest his bones broken with all the discomforts and sufferings he had endured.
On Tuesday 18 July his brothers, his wife, his aunt, and many friends and relatives arrived at the Villa to greet him.

On Thursday 20 July he entered Florence, to be met by his relatives and nephews; he went direct to the synagogue to prayer; he was called up for the Reading of the Law and gave thanks to God for his merciful aid and returning him to his home.
Then he went to visit his family and relatives ; then at the proper time he called on some of the Ministers and on some friends. After one or two days he went into the city and resumed his customary lire.

Thus ends the record of Moses Cassuto's journeyings.
In the fragmentary introduction to this, the second, journey, he
promises his wife that, if there is at some time a third journey, they will make it and record it together. Alas that this hope was never realised ! But he did well enough, and it is with pleasure that I offer these notes in his memory, in honour of Cecil Roth, always a lover of Italy and things Italian.


* Cassuto and Luzzatto, have they met?
It's curious, I found out that at the same time that Moses Vita Cassuto was in Amsterdam, also another Moses Vita from Italy, almost his age, stayed there: Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707 - 1747), famous teacher, writer and Kabbalist from Padua had sought refuge from his Italian critics in Amsterdam. He arrived in 1733 (to write there a.o. his most famous book 'Mesillat Yesharim') and left for Palestine in 1743, to perish there with his wife and son in 1746 from the plague in Akko.
Moses Cassuto was a pious Jew and I wonder if he met his namesake ; but perhaps as a traditional believer he shunned the controversial views of Luzzatto having heard of the ban on some of his scriptures.
I take over the following from the Jewish

Luzzatto, seeking a place to avoid the restrictions on his work by the Italian rabbi's, was welcomed at Amsterdam with great honor. He was received into the house of the prominent Moses de Chaves, whose son he taught, and the Sephardic community offered him a salary; but, preferring his personal independence, he supported himself by grinding optical lenses.
He devoted his spare time to study and teaching, and was soon able to send for his wife, son, and parents, who likewise were cordially received.
Luzzatto now resumed his correspondence with Bassani and his pupils; he commended the latter to his teacherand exhorted them to remain faithful to the study of the Cabala. This correspondence became known to the Venetian rabbis, and as they could do nothing further to Luzzatto, they attacked Bassani, who was suspected of having opened the casket which contained Luzzatto's works. This casket, which was supposed to be guarded by a cherub , is said to have found its way to Prague after many vicissitudes.
The ban was then renewed against those having forbidden works by Luzzatto in their possession and failing to deliver the same to the rabbinate of Venice.

Meanwhile Luzzatto's reputation was increasing at Amsterdam. He won the friendship of the foremost men there and displayed great activity as a teacher, still continuing his cabalistic studies.
In that city he published the following works: "Mesillat Yesharim" (1740), a popular survey of religious ethics, which was widely read; the Talmudic and methodologic treatise "Derek Tebunot" (1743); the smaller works, dealing with various subjects, "Ma'amar ha-'Iqarim," "Ma'amar 'al ha-Aggadot," "Derek Chokmah," "Ma'amar ha-Chokmah" (1743); and the allegorical drama "La-Yesharim Tehillah," written on the marriage of his pupil Jacob de Chaves—"a work of art unique in Neo-Hebraic literature, masterly in form, language, and thought, a monument to his great gifts, fitted to immortalize him and the tongue in which he composed it."
This drama, which in its simple plot bears much resemblance to that of the "Migdal 'Oz," is closely connected in sentiment with the ethical works written by Luzzatto at Amsterdam and is filled with lofty thought. It was imitated by many on account of its style, which is modeled, though with great freedom, on that of the Bible. Luzzatto had only fifty copies printed, which he distributed among the prominent members of the Sephardic community of the city.

At Amsterdam Luzzatto lived quietly and comfortably for ten years, making one short visit to London. When his period of renunciation of the Cabala drew to a close he was filled with a longing for the Holy Land, and after many hardships he arrived with his wife and son at Safed. He exchanged some letters with his disciples at Padua, in which he spoke of his aims and hopes; but in the midst of his plans for the future he, together with his wife and son, died of the Plague in his fortieth year, and was buried at Tiberias beside R. Akiba.

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