A 15th Century Jewish Prayer Book Has Been Fully Restored by the National Library

The “Moskowitz Mahzor” was created by one of the Middle Ages’ most important Jewish artists, Joel ben Simeon; It is now available to the public online

The renowned Moskowitz Mahzor is a manuscript inscribed on parchment in the 15th century by Joel ben Simeon, considered by many to be the most important Jewish artist of the Middle Ages. Ben Simeon was a scribe and illuminator active in Germany and Northern Italy. The manuscript is considered exceptional due to the stunning illustrations and illuminations found throughout, including images of rabbits, bears, fish, squirrels, and birds, as well as imaginary creations such as a unicorn, and a diverse range of mythological, religious and astrological symbols.

The restoration work on the Moskowitz Mahzor has now been completed and the exquisite manuscript is available online for the first time.

 

 

מחזור התפילה לפני השחזור
The Moskowitz Mahzor, before its restoration

It includes prayers according to the Jewish Roman rite for the entire year, including weekdays, the Sabbath, holidays, Torah readings, the Passover Haggadah, Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) with Maimonides’ commentary, various blessings, and rulings related to Jewish law.  It is also exceptionally full of piyyutim (Jewish liturgical poetry), slichot (Jewish penitential prayers), as well as rare formulas of other prayers.

After restoration

 

The months long restoration work on the 376 page treasure was extremely complicated, primarily because poor attempts over the centuries to fix its binding had made it difficult to open without causing damage. A number of Latin texts found inside the binding, attest to some attempts to strengthen the cover. Many of the manuscript’s illustrations had also faded over time.

 

Several examples of decorative elements found in the Moskowitz Mahzor

The Mahzor was donated to the National Library of Israel in 1970 by Henry and Rose Moskowitz of New York in memory of Henry’s parents, first wife, daughter and other relatives murdered in the Holocaust.

According to Dr. Yoel Finkelman, Head of Collections and Haim and Hanna Salomon Judaica Collection curator at the National Library of Israel, “For a long time we unfortunately could not offer physical access to one of the most important and beautiful manuscripts in our collection due to its fragile condition. Now, as a result of the wonderful work done by the team in our Conservation and Restoration Laboratory, the manuscript has been restored and digitized, opening access to the world for the first time.”

The complete restored Moskowitz Mahzor is now available online.

 

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The National Library of Israel

The National Library of Israel (NLI) is home to the intellectual and cultural treasures of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and its region throughout the ages.

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