Presented by The Library of JTS
People of Faith, Land of Promise

Iggeret Orhot Olam
(Epistle on the Ways of the World)
Abraham Farissol
Venice: printed by Giovanni Di Gara, 1587

enlarge image

The earliest known Hebrew reference to the New World appears in this volume of geography and folklore, which was completed in 1525. In the twenty-ninth chapter, which is devoted to the Age of Exploration, Farissol assured readers that the existence of the New World was not a theory, but "an established fact." The rudimentary map shown here, the only illustration in the volume, depicts a triangular-shaped New World and the stellar constellations that sailors used to navigate the Atlantic Ocean. It has been argued that Farissol’s interest in the discovery of the Americas stemmed from his belief that it presented evidence of the impending messianic age.

Farissol (ca. 1451-1525), a resident of Italy and a contemporary of Columbus, was a prominent scribe, cantor, polemicist and author. Iggeret Orhot Olam, his most famous work, was first published in 1587 and then eight more times by 1814.