Barcelona Haggadah

Barcelona Haggadah

Barcelona (Spain) — ca. 1340

One of the most impressive Hebrew manuscripts of all time and simultaneusly an insight into Jewish life in medieval Spain

  1. Considered to be one of the most magnificent Jewish manuscripts of all time

  2. Unusually magnificent and precious visual adornment indicates a wealthy, learned patron

  3. A historical inside view of Jewish life in medieval Spain with a rich ownership history

Barcelona Haggadah

  1. Description
  2. Single Page
  3. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Barcelona Haggadah

The Barcelona Haggadah is considered to be one of the most magnificent Jewish manuscripts of all! The collection of ceremonial prayers, which are to be read from the Haggadah on the eve of Passover, are presented with exceptional splendor in this manuscript. This unusually magnificent and precious visual adornment on 138 pages indicates a wealthy and important patron. Unfortunately, this person remains unknown, nevertheless, the additional history of the 14th century manuscript can be determined by numerous notes in the codex. The marvelous artistic décor of the Barcelona Haggadah impresses with its quality and splendor on every page of the manuscript and is simultaneously an important attestation of Jewish life in medieval Spain!

Barcelona Haggadah

The Barcelona Haggadah is considered to be one of the most magnificent Jewish manuscripts of all! The collection of ceremonial prayers, which are to be read from the Haggadah on the eve of Passover, are **presented with exceptional splendor in this manuscript. This unusually magnificent and precious visual adornment on 138 pages indicates a wealthy and important patron. Unfortunately, this person remains unknown, nevertheless, the additional history of the 14th century manuscript can be determined by numerous notes in the codex. The marvelous artistic décor of the Barcelona Haggadah impresses with its quality and splendor on every page of the manuscript and is simultaneously an important attestation of Jewish life in medieval Spain!

A Magnificent Spanish Haggadah

Manuscript Ms. 14761 of the British Library in London is an exceptional specimen of Spanish-Jewish culture in the 14th century. The manuscript known today the Barcelona Haggadah was probably made in Barcelona ca. 1340, a center of first-class illumination at that time. The lavish and unusually splendid décor of the codex presents the Haggadah as a status symbol of its owner, as well as indicating the good taste of its unknown patron!

The Ceremonial Manuscript

A Haggadah is a type of Jewish manuscript with a specific purpose: a collection of ceremonial prayers, texts, and songs, which were to be read on Seder, the eve of the Passover festival. The Seder feast on the occasion of the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity is traditionally celebrated with one’s family, and which is accompanied by readings from the Haggadah. That children should also sit at the table, to whom the story of the Israelites is to be retold in a playful manner, were provided for in the Haggadah’s colorful, entertaining miniatures.

Exceptional Visual Adornment

The Barcelona Haggadah is an outstanding specimen of a Haggadah, particularly because of its rich visual adornment. 138 of the manuscript’s 322 pages are splendidly illustrated. The typical full-page illustrations, which typically accompany biblical tales, are not found in the Barcelona Haggadah. This is more than offset by the exuberant illumination that embellishes all the pages of the manuscript: the Passover ritual is depicted, biblical stories are illustrated, but also the symbolic food and other details of the feast are recorded in the miniatures. Thus, the illustrations also offer a historically interesting inside view of Jewish life in medieval Spain.

Finest Ornamentation, Funny Figures, Noble Materials

Splendid gold script made of enhanced gold leaf adorns the pages. The visual adornment presents itself in gorgeous colors, which have maintained their luminosity to this day. Luxuriant bordures, enlivened with human figures, animals, and grotesque mythical creatures, adorn the pages. Here the miniaturist inserted animals, inter alia, which imitated human actions. Thus, the magnificent décor of the Barcelona Haggadah is also not short on humor.

Additional Provenance

Even if the wealthy patron of this exceptional Haggadah is unknown, the manuscript still offers an unusual amount of indications of its history. Thus there is an entry, in which it is recorded that a certain Shalom Latif of Jerusalem sold the manuscript in the year 1549 to Rabbi Moses ben Abraham of Bologna – for the considerable sum of 50 gold ducats, which is also recorded! Additional names from further owners are recorded in the book, until it reached the British Library in the year 1844.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
The Barcelona Haggadah
Barcelona Haggadah
Size / Format
322 pages / 25.5 × 19.0 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
ca. 1340
Style
Language
Illustrations
30 historiated initial-word panels with biblical, midrashic and ritual scenes
Previous Owners
Mordechai Ottolenghi
Raphael Hayyim Ottolenghi
Shalom Latif of Jerusalem
Rabbi Moses ben Abraham
Luigi da Bologna
Yehiel Nahman Foah
Mordechai and Raphael Hayyim Ottolenghi

Available facsimile editions:
Barcelona Haggadah – Add. Ms. 14761 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Facsimile Editions Ltd. – London, 1992
Limited Edition: 550 copies
Single Page

Barcelona Haggadah

Historiated Initial: Avadim Hayinu

One of the songs sung before the Passover meal is a single line stating: "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt—now we are free." It is presented here in a historiated initial, splendidly rendered in gold leaf and surrounded by floral marginalia, including the enigmatic image of a seated rabbit being served by a dog holding a golden goblet and decanter.

Ancient Israelites labor on the construction of a tower with the help of a crane: bricks are being made in the lower margin, which are then shaped and carried in the main scene. A taskmaster girt with sword and scourge in hand oversees the workers, who are observed by two presumably Egyptian riders in the right margin. Finely patterned scrollwork is found in the colored backgrounds and frames.

The Barcelona Haggadah
Facsimile Editions

#1 The Barcelona Haggadah

Facsimile Editions Ltd. – London, 1992

Publisher: Facsimile Editions Ltd. – London, 1992
Limited Edition: 550 copies
Binding: Tanned calfskin Italian binding, Blind-tooled on both covers and the spine. Handmade head and tail bands. Quire formation of the original manuscript precisely reproduced
Commentary: 1 volume by Jeremy Schonfield, Malachi Beit-Arié, Evelyn M. Cohen, Leila Avrin, Diana Roland-Smith, Menachem Schmelzer, Raphael Loewe and Yaacov Snir
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
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