Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Golden Haggadah (Formerly Golden Frame)

It does seem like the wrong season to write about haggadot shel Pesah, but I write about what crosses my desk. This is a follow-up to the last article about finding a page from the Golden Haggadah. I ordered a copy of the 1997 reproduction edition of the Haggadah published by the British Library. A dealer was selling this edition for $1.74. My copy came last week.

We compared this edition with the picture the professor had in his frame. The measurements were close, but not exactly the same. The colors were not an exact match. The blue in the printed edition was more brilliant and the gold was more golden. The measurements were very close to the original manuscript as text mentioned their size. The book was printed with the continuous tone process, which allows the dots to be printed an almost unlimited range of colors. This is how the gold color can be so brilliant.

Since we couldn’t remove the picture from the frame, we can not be certain of the origin. It does not look as if it came from the 1997 printed edition. The date of the frame was 1997 and this would make it less likely, though not impossible that someone bought the book and cut it for the picture. This will remain a mystery.

The library is always getting book donations from estates. Much of the time few of the books are added to the collection. Sometimes there are books that the library is happy to receive because they fill in gaps to the collection. Books that aren’t added are sold or given away. Recently as part of a large gift were some old prayers books, Bibles and a haggadah. The prayer books and Bible were sold for about $20 each, but we were only offered $60 for the haggadah. I wanted to investigate before I approved the sale.

I looked at the title page. It said Amsterdam, 1780. This is a significant edition that is on plate #75 on Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi’s Haggadah and history : a panorama in facsimile of 5 centuries of the printed Haggadah from the collections of Harvard University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Yaari #199) It is illustrated with engravings and has both the Askenazi and Sephardi texts. It has two title pages. One has Ma’aleh Bet ḥorin : ṿe-hu seder Hagadah shel Pesaḥ ‘im perushe Maharam Alshikh and the other has Hagadah shel Pesaḥ ki-minhag ashkenaz u-ki-minhag sephardim.  

I wanted to find the value and search for auction records of previous sales. I found a record of a sale in 2007 for $6000. I wish the library could keep the volume, but we have no safe place to store and preserve this treasure. We will have to be satisfied with a photocopy of the title pages and the knowledge that we once had a piece of haggadah history.

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