Portrait of Anglo-Jewry 1656-1836

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Source Material

It is not unusual for a presidential address to be devoted to the president's pet subject and this one is no exception. Its source material is the political and social caricatures, book illustrations, portraits, topographical prints, trade cards and ephemera of a similar nature which this country has produced in such abundance and which have been my special interest for a number of years.2

The picture which emerges is one of Anglo-Jewry seen through Christian eyes with the emphasis on social conditions and with some bearing on a subject which has not hitherto been explored : the development of Jewish political thought in this country. In this connection, the political caricature, which is said to mirror public opinion, is of special value.

People began to appreciate the importance of pictorial matter of this kind about a century ago. The first recorded collection, made by a non-Jew, was sold by Messrs. Sotheran in 1881 to the Hon. Harry Lawson (later 1st Viscount Burnham) who presented it to this society in memory of his grandmother, Esther Levy. It contained a number of rarities and was one of the irreplaceable losses the society suffered when the Mocatta Library was bombed. The first Jewish collector seems to have been Alfred Alvarez Newman (1851-1887), an active member of the 1887 Exhibition Committee, whose collection was acquired by Asher I. Myers (1848-1902), and now belongs to this society. Newman was followed by Israel Solomons (1860-1923), whose various collections are now at the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York and the Hebrew Union College, Cincinatti.

These collections consisted mainly of engravings; for other material the chief source is the catalogue of the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, 1887, while the catalogue of the 1956 Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum shows the losses and gains in the interim.

The First Hundred Years

Judging by the absence of pictorial matter on the subject, the readmission of the Jews in 1656 provoked little public interest and the only reference to it occurs in a satirical portrait of Hugh Peters. In fact, for the first century after the readmission the chief feature noticeable in prints and drawings is the gradual emergence of a Jewish type. The German prints depicting Jews as demons fortunately had a Hmited circulation and when the English engraver was called upon to produce a picture of a Jew he was

1 This composite title embraces two presidential addresses : Anglo-Jewish History in Pictures (1656-1856) and The English Radicals and the Jews (1769-1830) delivered 24 October 1956 and 13 November 1957 respectively.

2 A fuller description of the engravings referred to below will in most cases be found in the author's Anglo-Jewish Portraits (1935) and A Jewish Iconography (1954), or in the British Museum Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires.

at a complete loss. Lancelot Addison's Present State of the Jews in Barbary, first published in 1675, contains a picture

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