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The Barcelona Haggadah is justly considered one of the most significant illuminated Hebrew codices, housed in the manuscript collection of the British Library. Created around mid-14th century, it is named after the coat of arms it features, which echoes Barcelona’s one.

An Iconographic Apparatus Intended for Children

At the time Barcelona represented a thriving centre of manuscript illumination while being home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. Although Jewish religion makes use of several types of prayer books, the Passover Haggadah seems to be the most ornamented and elaborated.

Interestingly, the fact that the story was intended to be narrated to children results in the use of a vivid iconographic apparatus. The illustrations, distributed throughout the codex, are part of a superbly decorated extensive cycle which exhibits exquisite insights into Jewish life of mid-14th century Spain. Furthermore, almost half of its leaves bear exquisite ornamental elements.

Key-role Played by Musical Instruments

Given its relatively imposing size, the manuscript was intended be used at the table in occasion of the family gathering known as the Seder.

It is worth noticing the significant role played by music both in the manuscript and in the community as it was used as means to draw closer Jews and Christians. The importance of and interest in music is reflected in the several illustrations depicting musical instruments throughout the manuscripts, in total 28.

The script used in the Barcelona Haggadah – written on 8 lines per page – is large and neat, possibly to make it more accessible to children.

The Barcelona Haggadah: a Long Life

The life of the manuscript was certainly long and interesting, for we know from some inscriptions lefts on its pages that it belonged to Shalom Latif of Jerusalem, who sold it to Rabbi Moses ben Abraham of Bologna in 1459 for 50 ducats.

The Barcelona Haggadah seems to have been owned by an ecclesiastical figure in 1599, it was in the possession of Jehiel Nahman Foà in the 17th century and it was passed on to Mordecai and Raphael Hayyim, two members of the Ottolenghi family. Finally, British Museum bought it in 1844.

Contents of the Barcelona Haggadah

The Barcelona Haggadah contains the Haggadah, Laws for Passover, piyyutim and Torah readings for the festival of Passover according to the Spanish rite (Folios 9-151) and poems, Aramaic Targumim and Aramaic piyyutim according to the Provençal custom.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Barcelona Haggadah": The Barcelona Haggadah facsimile edition, published by Facsimile Editions Ltd., 1992

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The Barcelona Haggadah

London: Facsimile Editions Ltd., 1992

  • Commentary (English) by Schonfield, J.; Beit-Arié, M.; Avrin, L.; Roland-Smith, D.; Schmelzer, M.; Loewe, R.; Snir, Y.
  • Limited Edition: 550 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Barcelona Haggadah: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

The Barcelona Haggadah has been acclaimed as one of the finest facsimiles in publishing history. The publishers, not content merely to reproduce the appearance of the original, recreated the aura of the manuscript by including every detail, no matter how minute. The facsimile is designed to be used and enjoyed for many generations to come, thereby preserving and making accessible a rich cultural heritage. From its inception, the Barcelona Haggadah facsimile was planned as a lavish and accurate copy. The vellum of the original manuscript was measured for its average weight and opacity, and a special uncoated, neutral pH paper was milled to simulate the feel of the original. Several years of research and development culminated in the production of a paper that exactly reproduces the opacity, texture and thickness of the vellum on which the manuscript was written. The paper, made by a small Alpine paper mill, is similar to that used in the Kennicott Bible and Rothschild Miscellany facsimiles and has been widely recognised as the closest likeness to vellum ever achieved. Crucial to the production of a fine facsimile is the quality of the original photography. This was undertaken by Laurence Pordes, Senior Photographer at the British Library, who expertly lit and photographed the manuscript using a large-format plate camera and a specially made batch of Kodak Ektachrome film. The facsimile is printed in up to twelve different coloured inks, demanding great care and attention by the master printers, colour separators and our own quality-control team. The colour separators combined laser scanning equipment with painstakingly precise hand work in order to make the colour separations necessary for the first proofs. These proofs were then compared with the original manuscript in London by the separators, the publisher and the printer. Corrections were made and new proofs were produced and compared yet again to the original. This process was repeated up to four times for each page to ensure an exact likeness prior to printing. The facsimile is printed by offset lithography in up to twelve inks. Each printed page is exactly the same size as the original. Every single sheet is printed under the close and critical supervision of the publishers, who moved to Italy for the duration of the printing and personally approved each page. The scribe made minute holes down the sides of each folio between which he would rule lines for his script. These tiny holes, referred to as pricking, were often trimmed off before the manuscript was bound, but are reproduced in the facsimile where they still exist. As gold leaf cannot be adequately simulated by printing, it was decided to reproduce the raised burnished gold in the original by laying metal leaf by hand to achieve the richness of the fourteenth-century gilding. Craftsmen applied metal foil leaf to each of the 105 pages where gold is found, using a unique process developed especially for these facsimiles, resulting in raised gold as in the original. Special metallic powder is applied to all the illustrations that contain powdered gold or silver in the original. Much of the silver in the manuscript has tarnished, so yet another new technique was developed to simulate oxidised silver. Every copy is accompanied by a certificate bearing the seal of The British Library, verifying the number of the facsimile and the size of the edition. The number of each facsimile is discreetly yet indelibly blind-stamped on the inside of the back cover using steel dies. he commentary volume has been designed to be used in conjunction with manuscript facsimile. The entire text of the manuscript has been translated. The commentary volume is edited by Dr Jeremy Schonfield (Mason Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies; Lecturer at the Leo Baeck College, Centre for Jewish Education, London).

Binding

The blind-tooled binding is in fine brown calfskin over boards with rounded corners. The book block is sewn by Italian craftsmen over handmade head and tail bands. The quire formation of the manuscript has also been scrupulously observed. The accompanying commentary volume is produced to an equally high standard, printed on Magnani mould-made paper and bound in a full calfskin binding. While every effort is made to match the commentary volume binding to that of the facsimile as closely as possible, we do use natural skins and there may be slight differences. The title of the commentary volume is blocked in gold on the spine. The facsimile and commentary volume are presented in an elegant hand-marbled slipcase.

Used and new from

€ 4,097

approx US$ 4,810


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