A Little Heavy Reading

Posted on June 27, 2012 by

Greetings, JMM Blog readers!  I’m David Broadway, one of two Archive interns at the JMM this summer.  I’m currently a student at the University of Texas School of Information, where I study Archives and Preservation.

One of my tasks this summer is to help with the inventory of the museum’s collection of rare books.  I photograph the books to document their condition and to provide a visual record for our database.  As a rare book nerd, I find this task to be really exciting!  I have encountered some fascinating artifacts in the collection; today I leafed through an 1887 book about Baltimore with charming illustrations of the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the relatively new Druid Hill Park.

Haggadah bound in metal

One of my favorite books in the collection is a gorgeous illustrated Haggadah bound in metal; the rare book collection includes quite a few Haggadot, but this edition, illustrated by Arthur Szyk, stands out because its covers are made of metal.  There are two copies of this edition, and they caught my eye sparkling on the shelf when I began this project.  For those who don’t know, the Haggadah is a short text that outlines the Seder liturgy, to be read during Passover.  Haggadot can be a challenge for preservation since they are meant to be read at a meal; this is in contrast to the JMM collections storage, where no food or liquid is allowed.

A look at the illustrations

Szyk completed 48 illustrations for this Haggadah between 1934 and 1936 in Poland.  He drew on traditions of illuminated Haggadah that go back to the 1500s.  The first edition of this Haggadah was published in 1940 in London as a limited run of 250 copies on vellum; the editions in the JMM collections are later trade editions printed in Tel Aviv in the 1960s.  While they aren’t quite as rare as the original edition, they are still beautifully bound and illustrated.

3 illustrations

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1 Comment

  1. irvin ungar says:

    Congratulations David on your enthusiasm for The Szyk Haggadah. To further understand the messages behind Szyk’s beautiful artwork, may I recommend to you the commentary by Rabbi Byron Sherwin in the 2011 Abrams publication of The Szyk Haggadah. Needless to say, you may visit my website of http://www.szyk.com to learn more about Szyk, but you probably already have. May you have many more wonderful discoveries during your internship.
    Irvin Ungar

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