Illustrated Medieval High Holiday Prayer Book Likely to Sell for Over $4 Million at Auction
A centuries-old illuminated Jewish prayer book will likely sell for millions of dollars at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction.
According to the Guardian, the Luzzatto High Holiday Mahzor is approximately 700 years old and was originally written and illustrated in southern Germany.
Sotheby’s will auction the book next month, and believes it will be sold for $4-6 million.
The book is of an extremely rare variety — particularly because its illustrations are unusual in Jewish religious manuscripts of the time.
Sharon Liberman Mintz, a senior consultant of books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s, said of the mahzor, “The fact that it was created by a Jewish scribe-artist at a time when many medieval Hebrew manuscripts were illustrated by Christian artists is especially noteworthy.”
The book “contains the entire cycle of prayers for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” she said, and has been heavily annotated by the various communities through which it circulated in Germany, Italy, and France over the course of the Middle Ages.
In one case, prayers for those murdered in the pogroms that accompanied the Black Death pandemic were added to the book.
The annotations to the book, Mintz said, are “a witness to Jewish communal life, a repository of communal identity. And it’s just fascinating that we can follow along.”
“What you have is a manuscript that’s both a liturgical book and a ritual object of communal character,” she added. Such books “were designed for use for the community as a whole.”
The book is being sold by the French-Jewish educational organization Alliance Israélite Universelle in order to raise funds for its activities. The Alliance originally purchased the book from the 19th-century Jewish scholar Samuel David Luzzatto.