JOURNEY TO HOLLAND
from Holland via Germany back to Florence
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
'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'.
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*
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
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
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
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
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
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.