ANTONIA, PRINCESS OF WÜRTEMBERG:
By: Moses Beer
A Christian Hebraist and cabalistic scholar, born in the first half of the seventeenth century; died 1679. One of the effects of the Reformation in Germany was an increased interest in the Hebrew language among Christian scholars, and royal and noble families included it sometimes even in the curriculum of their daughters' education. In the seventeenth century many German women attained to quite a considerable knowledge of Hebrew. One of the best known of them was Antonia, the daughter of Duke Eberhard III. of Würtemberg (1629-74). She acquired a remarkable mastery of Hebrew, and, according to contemporary evidence, was well versed in rabbinic and cabalistic lore. Esenwein, dean of Urach and professor at Tübingen, wrote as early as July, 1649, to John Buxtorf at Basel that Antonia, "having been well grounded in the Hebrew language and in reading the Hebrew Bible, desires to learn also the art of reading without vowels," and three years later he wrote to Buxtorf that she had made such progress that she had "with her own hand put vowels to the greatest part of a Hebrew Bible." Philipp Jacob Spener, another pupil of Buxtorf, during his temporary stay at Heidelberg, was on friendly terms with the princess, and they studied Cabala together. Buxtorf himself presented her with a copy of each of his books. There is a manuscript extant in the Royal Library of Stuttgart, entitled "Unterschiedlicher Riss zu Sephiroth," which is supposed to have been written by Antonia. It contains cabalistic diagrams, some of which are interpreted in Hebrew and German. Her praise was sung by many a Christian Hebraist, and one poem (in twenty-four stanzas with her acrostic) in honor of the "celebrated Princess Antonia" has been preserved in the collection of manuscripts of John Buxtorf.
- Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. xx. 67, 69;
- Kayserling, Jew. Quart. Rev. 1897, ix. 509 et seq.