Cheshire auctioneers Adam Partridge have discovered a copy of the Passover Haggadah written and illuminated by the celebrated 18th century scribe Aaron Wolf Herlingen in Vienna.
The remarkable find, made during the
valuation of a house contents in Manchester, is expected to bring
more than £100,000 when it is offered for sale in Macclesfield in
Valuer Bill Forrest was first shown a
box of Jewish prayer books when preparing the estate of a
Rothschild family member for sale earlier this year.
The 20-leaf manuscript, punctuated by
numerous coloured vignettes that set forth the order of the
Passover Seder, was found buried towards the bottom but apparently
no worse for its recent neglect. It retained its original Viennese
binding and was in fresh condition, save the minor staining on
folios whose text relates to the ritual consumption of
Research subsequently found that the
scribe and artist was Aaron Wolff Herlingen of Gewitsch, Moravia,
also known as Aaron Schreiber and a key figure in the renaissance
of Hebrew manuscript art that began in Vienna in the early 18th
Schooled in the multiple languages of
the Holy Roman Empire, in 1736 Herlingen was made scribe of the
Imperial Library in Vienna and is known to have completed around
40-50 Haggadot in his career.
Mr Forrest is currently piecing
together the history of the new discovery, which is already making
waves in the Judaica collecting world.
Herlingen's signature appears on the
title page alongside the date 1726 and the name Mendel Oppenheimer.
It seems possible the manuscript was commissioned to mark the birth
of Emanuel Mendel Oppenheimer (1726-80), the first child of Samuel
Emanuel Oppenheimer of Vienna and a close descendant of the great
banker and imperial court diplomat Samuel Oppenheimer
A later pencil inscription reads:
No.47 Exposition du Albert Hall, an indication that the
Haggadah had been an exhibit at the Anglo-Jewish Historical
Exhibition held at the Kensington landmark in 1887. At
the time, the vendor's family lived in Belgium but moved to London
shortly after the Nazi invasion.
Raising the possibility that this is
also an object of great value is the knowledge that another
Herlingen Haggadah, apparently one of only a small handful of
survivors now in private hands, was sold in New York last year.
That larger version, numbering 33 leaves and including a map showing thetribulations of the
Exodus, made an eye-watering $800,000 (or $962,500 including
buyer's premium) as part of the Important Judaica sale at Sotheby's
New York on December 2012.
Adam Partridge expect their manuscript
to prove the highlight of their specialist sale of Judaica on
November 22 when it carries an estimate of
• By coincidence, Boston auctioneers
Skinner will offer a Haggadah decorated en
grisaille by Aaron Wolff Herlingen in their Judaica sale
on October 3. Dated 1735, this unrecorded example was produced
during the artist's stay in Pressburg (now Bratislava,
An old inscription reads: "This
Haggadah belongs to the learned Itsik, son of Abraham Rofe of Lisa
(Littau, Czech Litovel), who lives in the town of Hultschin." It
carries an estimate of $200,000-300,000.