Sarajevo, Zemaljski Muzej Bosne i Hercegovine

Sarajevo Haggadah Facsimile Edition

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Comprising 142 leaves of thin, bleached calf skin measuring 22.8 x 16.5 cm, the Sarajevo Haggadah is a masterpiece that unfolds with sixty-nine illuminated miniatures across its first thirty-four leaves. These miniatures vividly depict the Creation of the World, slavery in Egypt, the Exodus led by Moses, and subsequent events, culminating in the succession of Joshua. Remarkably, the final four miniatures deviate from biblical themes. Subsequent leaves contain the Haggadah text, meticulously inscribed in Hebrew using a medieval, Spanish-style square script. The book concludes with an added poetic/ceremonial appendix featuring works by renowned Hebrew poets from the golden era of Hebrew literature (tenth-thirteenth century).

The Sarajevo Haggadah, derived from the Hebrew word for "story" or "account," stands as a remarkable compilation of religious rules and traditions meticulously arranged to coincide with the Seder, a ritual observed during Passover. This significant holiday commemorates the emancipation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. The Haggadah played a pivotal role in the ceremonial family dinner, where household members and guests, clutching the sacred book, immersed themselves in accounts detailing the journey to freedom and its ceremonial ties to the well-known Old Testament narrative. Noteworthy among the plethora of Haggadot produced due to this tradition is the Sarajevo Haggadah, distinguished by its aesthetic brilliance and historical importance.

Probably Intended as a Wedding Gift

The Sarajevo Haggadah showcases unparalleled artistry in defiance of a scriptural prohibition against graven images. Its illuminations and miniatures trace the book's origin to medieval Spain, particularly the former kingdom of Aragon, likely crafted in Barcelona around 1350. Notably, the book may have been a wedding gift for the Shoshan and Elazar families, evident from their coats of arms gracing its pages. These heraldic symbols, a rosette/rose (shoshan in Hebrew) and a wing (elazar), are prominently displayed alongside the coat of arms of the city of Barcelona.

History of the Manuscript

Discovered in 1894, the Sarajevo Haggadah captivated art historians, offering a rare glimpse into the artistic representation of humans and animals by Jews, despite scriptural prohibitions. The manuscript's origin in medieval Spain aligns with a plausible creation in Barcelona around 1350. It changed hands after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, yet the identities of both the original and subsequent owners remain elusive. The Haggadah found its way to Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with a note from 1609 attesting to its content being free of anti-Church sentiments, possibly a result of scrutiny by the Roman Inquisition.

Resurfacing in 1894, the National Museum acquired the Sarajevo Haggadah from the Sephardic family Koen. It underwent analysis in Vienna before returning to Sarajevo. During the tumultuous events of World War II, director Jozo Petrović and curator Derviš Korkut valiantly protected the manuscript from German forces, hiding it in a mosque on Mount Bjelašnica. Subsequent attempts at theft were thwarted in the 1950s. In 1992, during the siege of Sarajevo, the National Museum again safeguarded the Haggadah, enduring heavy shelling, a testament to the enduring resilience and value of this irreplaceable artifact.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Sarajevo Haggadah": The Sarajevo Haggadah facsimile edition, published by Sarajevo Svjetlost, 1983

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Manuscript book description compiled by the publisher.
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The Sarajevo Haggadah

Sarajevo: Sarajevo Svjetlost, 1983

  • Commentary (English) by Werber, Eugen
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Sarajevo 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.

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