Esslingen Mahzor online

Both parts of thirteenth-century Hebrew prayerbook virtually reunited

6 September 2013

The famous Esslingen Mahzor, a Hebrew prayerbook from the late thirteenth century, is partly kept in New York and partly in Amsterdam, in the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana. Both parts are now reunited at one website.

In the winter of 1290, Kalonymos ben Judah of Esslingen (near Stuttgart in North Württemberg) completed the writing and decorating of a so-called ‘winter Mahzor’ for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The second half of this Esslingen Mahzor has long been well known in the scholarly world. In its colophon the scribe makes explicit mention of the place and date in which the manuscript was produced (28 Tevet 5050/12 January 1290). The codex, housed in the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana (one of the Special Collections of the Library of the University of Amsterdam) since the 1970s, is therefore the earliest recorded dated and localized Hebrew manuscript written in Germany.

For many years, the first part of the Esslingen Mahzor appeared to have been lost. In 1990, Dr. Evelyn M. Cohen identified a manuscript in the library of The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York as the missing first part of the Rosenthaliana volume. The texts are complementary and most of the decoration was done by the same artist. Later changes to the manuscript are identical: the same characteristic patch- and pastework occurs in both manuscripts, as do the extensive marginal annotations so typical of the Mahzor.

Separated at some unknown time in the past, the original volume is now digitized by the well-known Israeli photographer Ardon Bar-Hama and reunited virtually for the first time, thanks to the generous support of the well-known New York philanthropist George Blumenthal.

Machzor from Esslingen

Published by  Special Collections UvA