Benjamin Of Tudela

, a Jewish rabbi, and author of the “Itinerary,” was the son of Jonas of Tudela, and born in the kingdom of Navarre. He flourished about the year 1170. He travelled over several of the most remote countries, and wherever he came, wrote a particular account of what he either saw himself, or was informed of by persons of credit. He died in 1173, not long after his return from his travels. Casimir Oudin tells us, that he was a man of great sagacity and judgment, and well skilled in the sacred laws; and that his observations and accounts have been generally found to be exact upon examination, our author being remarkable for his love of truth. There have been several editions of his “Itinerarium.” It was translated from the Hebrew into Latin by Benedict Arius Montanus, and printed by Plantin at Antwerp in 1575, 8vo. Constantine PEmpereur likewise published it with a Latin version, and a preliminary dissertation, and large notes; which was printed by Elzevir in 1633, 8vo. J. P. Baratier translated it into French, 1731, 2 vols. 8vo, but the most remarkable translation is that published at London in 1783 by the Rev. B. Gerrans, lecturer of St. Catherine Coleman, and second master of Queen Elizabeth’s Free Grammar school, St. Clave, Southwark. The author of this translation, which is taken from the Elzevir edition abovementioned, hesitates not to speak of Benjamin as contemptible, doubts whether he ever left his native Tudela, but allows, although with some reluctance, that he may have travelled through Spain and some part of Italy. Mr. Gerrans, having thus, as he says, “unmasked, chastised, and humbled his author,” allows that as he wrote in a century so obscure, we ought to be glad of the least monument to cast a glimmering light on it. He allows also that the pure and simple style in which the book is written, | renders it one of the best introductions to the Rahinical dialect: it throws more light on the times than a whole catalogue of monkish writers: it shews the ignorance of the Jewish teachers in matters of geography and history, and the state and numbers of their own people. The chief use, the translator adds, which he wishes to make of the book, is to confirm lukewarm and indifferent Christians, in the principles of their religion, and to combat the errors and impenitence of the Jews by their own weapons. This work is no doubt a curiosity, as the production of a Jew in the twelfth century, and the translator’s observations also may be allowed to have some weight: but considered in itself, the rabbi’s book has only a small portion of real worth; for in addition to the fabulous narrations, which lead the reader to suspect him even when he speaks truth, there are many other errors, omissions, and mistakes. Benjamin’s principal view seems to have been to represent the number and state of his brethren in different parts of the world, and accordingly he mentions merely the names of many places to which we are to suppose he travelled, furnishing no remark, except,perhaps, a brief account of the Jews to be found there. When he relates any thing farther, it is often trifling, or fictitious, or mistaken, as he frequently is, even in numbering his countrymen. 1

1 Gen. Dict. Month. Rev. vol. LXX. —Saxii Onomasticon.