Montefiore Mainz Mahzor

A page from the Montefiore Mainz Mahzor.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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TEFAF award to conserve Judaica

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is the recipient of the latest TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund of €25,000.

The grant is being used to conserve a rare Hebrew illuminated manuscript festival prayer book. The museum acquired Montefiore Mainz Mahzor (c.1310-20) in 2018 but has not disclosed where from or what it paid. It was the first piece of Judaica to enter the MFAH collection and the museum then created a new gallery for Judaica following further donations. Museum director Gary Tinterow said: “This extraordinary manuscript is one of a very few surviving examples from medieval Germany, and is all the more remarkable because it was actively used by congregants for centuries.”

During medieval times, the Jewish communities of the cities of Mainz, Speyer and Worms became centres of Jewish life in the Rhineland. They commissioned illustrated manuscripts such as the Mainz Mahzor during the 14th century. This 299-leaf book is in Ashkenazic script and is illuminated with hybrid animals, grotesques and human figures.

SAS will leave Dudley saleroom

Special Auction Services (SAS) is leaving its premises at Baylies Hall in Dudley at the end of April.

The saleroom was previously Aston’s and SAS took it over in autumn 2020 when that auction house closed (ATG No 2463). Family founders Phil retired from full-time work in 2016 and Chris relocated to the French Alps.

SAS held auctions and valuation days from the venue and its last sale there will be Toys, Jewellery, Antiques & Collectables on March 30-31.

It is leaving the venue due to being unable to agree terms with the landlord. SAS said it “will very much remain present in the Midlands with regular valuation days and home visits”.

In January 2020, SAS expanded into a new saleroom in its home town of Newbury.

Herschel visitor book purchased

Caroline Herschel’s visitors’ book

Caroline Herschel’s visitors’ book has been bought for £6000 by The Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath.

Image: Bath Preservation Trust

The Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath has bought Caroline Herschel’s visitor book dating from her time living near Windsor.

German-born Herschel (1750-1848) moved to the UK to be with her brother William (1738-1822) and they began as musicians before later becoming famous astronomers.

They lived at 19 New King Street in Bath, which is now the home of the Herschel Museum of Astronomy.

The visitor book is a vellumbound volume, compiled by Caroline from the mid-1780s when she and her brother were living in Datchet, near Windsor. Written in Caroline’s own hand, it lists over a hundred names of people who came to see them – often including the king and queen, attended by members of court – to look through William’s telescopes. Scientists, writers, artists, politicians and foreign royalty all feature. Joseph Haydn, Benjamin Franklin and Fanny Burney are listed.

The book had been on longterm loan to the museum since 1996 – kindly provided by Dr and Mrs A Koester – and the museum was recently given the opportunity to buy it.

The museum is dedicated to the many achievements of the Herschels. William discovered the planet Uranus in 1781 using a telescope of his own design from the home. Later the pair were joined by William’s son John (1792-1871) who also became an astronomer.

Among Caroline’s achievements was the discovery of several comets including the periodic comet 35P/ Herschel–Rigollet.

IACF and dealer funds for Ukraine

Fairs organiser IACF has donated £1000 to a charity supporting Ukraine and its refugees and is encouraging other fair organisers to do the same. IACF dealer Matthew Smith of Smith & Moon Interiors in Dorset is planning to drive to Poland with supplies. He has launched a crowdfunding site at

Historic Houses judges announced

A judging panel for Dreweatts’ Historic Houses competition has been announced. The auction house teamed up with Historic Houses, a group of independent historic properties across the UK, last year to launch the ‘Collections Award: Recognising Responding, Reimagining’ which will honour those who “preserve, restore and interpret beautiful and significant objects”.

The judging panel comprises Desmond Shawe-Taylor, former surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures (2005-21); Max Donnelly, curator of furniture and woodwork 1800-1900 at the V&A; London ceramics specialist Adrian Sassoon; art consultant Georgina Macpherson; and interior decorator and art adviser James Mackie. Entries should be submitted by April 15.

The winner will be announced at the Historic Houses AGM on November 15.

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The number of cultural artefacts seized in an operation led by Interpol. Operation Pandora VI, active between June 1-September 30, 2021, comprised actions take by authorities in 28 countries who made 52 arrests with 170 investigations are still ongoing.