VOLTERRA, MESHULLAM BEN MENAHEM:
Italian jeweler of the fifteenth century. He lived in Florence, where he and his father, Menahem ben Aaron Volterra (who in 1460 was worth 100,000 ducats), carried on a business in precious stones. According to Abraham Portaleone, Volterra wrote a book on jewelry. In 1481 he undertook a journey to the Orient, going by way of Rhodes to Alexandria, where there were at that time only sixty Jewish families. Here he saw a beautiful manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, which the natives claimed had been written by Ezra. In Cairo, where he bought gems, great honor was shown him by the nagid of the city, the wealthy Solomon ben Joseph, whose father also had been nagid, as well as body-physician to the sultan.
On July 29 Volterra reached Jerusalem, where at that time there were 250 Jewish families. Here both he and his companion became dangerously ill. He then passed through Jaffa and Damascus to Crete, where he was shipwrecked, lost his precious stones, and again became very ill. His life was saved only by the self-sacrificing care of a German Jewish physician. Volterra finally reached Venice in October. His account of the journey, which has been preserved in manuscript in the Laurentiana (cod. xi. 3, p. 128), was first published by Luncz in his "Jerusalem" (i. 166-219).
Volterra had a brother Raphael, who was engaged in the book-trade.
- Nepi-Ghirondi, Toledot Gedole Yisrael, p. 224;
- Portaleone, Shilṭe ha-Gibborim, p. 29a;
- Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. xxi. 76;
- Berliner, Magazin, vii. 119;
- Luncz, Jerusalem, iii. 50.