Catalan Mahzor

ms Heb 6527

National Library of Israel
ISBN 978-0-948223-36-5


Only 2 left in stock

A Mahzor for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur according to the Catalonian Rite, written and decorated in Catalonia, Spain. This unique mahzor was completed in approximately 1280. It comprises 154 folios (308 pages) size 195 x 155 mm (approximately 7¾” x 6″) and is written in clear Sefardi semi-cursive script.

The Catalan Mahzor is profusely ornamented with 59 pages of intricate, ingenious micrographic panels depicting exquisite hunting scenes all in micrography. Traditional decorative elements in manuscripts written in Spain, such as the Temple implements and menorah, are similarly executed in micrography in full page panels. Two headings and a full page coloured illustration are written in gold against a background of purple and blue. The finials of the letter ‘lamed’ are in the form of foliage and birds. This manuscript is unique as micrographic decorations are generally not found in prayer books.

The text includes liturgical hymns by Spanish Jewish poets. Most of the piyyutim conform to the rites of prayer that have been preserved by Jewish communities which originated in the city of Barcelona or the region of Catalonia; some of them conform to the rite prevalent in the Kingdom of Aragon before the unification of Spain, which at that time ruled Barcelona and Catalonia. The Mahzor was donated to the National Library by Mr Ludwig Jesselson in 1986.

The video below describes the incredible story of the Catalan Mahzor that survived the edict of expulsion from Spain, was smuggled out of Nazi Germany to the United States, and eventually found its way to the National Library in Jerusalem.

Folio 1v (r)<br />The text flows from outer edge of the leading foot of the Monkey and begins with Psalm 1, “Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked…’  The bird-headed dragon, starts with Psalm 122 and contains Psalm 123. The tree contains Psalm 124 and ends with Psalm 127. The left dragon starts with Psalm 132 and ends with Psalm 133.<br />Folio 2r (l)<br />The writing begins at the inner upper point of the right bird’s wing and starts with 2 Samuel 22. The frames contain Psalm 119. <small><a href="">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

The Facsimile

A strictly limited edition of only 25 copies of which no more than 22 copies will be offered for sale, printed either on specially-milled parchment paper or the finest sheepskin parchment.

Illuminated pages have been hand-gilt using 23 carat gold leaf. The short video shows how real gold is applied to the facsimile.

Hand-bound and gold-tooled in fine leather, binding the facsimile takes many hours of painstaking work and is described in the short video.

Hand-bound and gold-tooled in fine leather, binding the facsimile takes many hours of painstaking work and is described in the short video.

Folio 14r  The writing starts above the griffin’s hind leg and continues clockwise  starting with Psalms 84 and 144 to Psalm 147. The frames contain Psalms 129 and 51. <small><a href="">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>
The perfectly replicated facsimile binding. <small><a href="">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>
Folio 47v<br />The main text contains prayers for Rosh Hashana. The micrographic candelabra tree contains segments from the Rashba’s baqasha. see Halperin, D. R., <em>Mira un poko de maraviyas de el ke no tenesh visto</em> Hispania Judaica 6 (2009), 43–56. The writing begins on the central shaft above the bottom left branch of the candelabra tree and continues clockwise.<br />Folio 48r<br />The writing begins at the right base of the candelabra tree and continues clockwise. The tree contains Psalms 113-115:15<small><a href="">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

Commentary Volume

Folio 4r. See the the adjacent commentary volume extract for a detailed description of this page.
The detailed analysis of folio 4r described on pages 322-3 of the commentary volume.

Contents of the Catalan Mahzor Commentary Volume

The 736 page commentary volume accompanying the facsimile includes 150 illustrations. In Illuminating in Micrography, Dalia-Ruth Halperin analyses the Catalan Mahzor in extensive detail revealing the close association between the micrographic full-page panel images and the texts used to create them.

There is a detailed translation and source for each of the micrographic images.

Show full contents

1 The Art of Micrography and Its Research Methodology

The Masorah
The Decoration’s Forming Text
The Artistic Development of Micrography
Micrography in the Middle Ages
Research Survey
Micrography Research Methodology

2 The Manuscript’s Material Evidence

Writing Materials and Quire Structure
Perforation and Ruling Layout
Structural Transparency and Line Management Methods
The Scripts Used in the Maḥzor
Characteristics of the Scripts
Scribe and Micrographer
The Characteristics of the Scribe’s Writing
The Semicursive Script and Its Role in Dating the Maḥzor

3 The Text

The Liturgical Structure
The Decoration Program for the Piyyuṭim
Initial Word Panels
Prayer Instructions
Marginal Decorations
Text Analysis: Rite and Branches
Indications of the Maḥzor’s Place and Date of Production

4 Within the Cultural Milieu: The Scribe’s Artistic Sources

The Decoration Plan
The Scribe’s Artistic Sources
Artistic Sources from Jewish Art
Artistic Sources from Islamic Art
Artistic Sources from Latin Art

5 Every Word Counts: Deciphering the Micrography’s Text Flow

Scribal Copying Snares
The “Choreography” of the Micrography
Un tour de force: The Virtuosic Choreography of the Micrography
The Scribe’s Selection of Psalms: Associations between the Text and the Iconography

6 Reading the Image: Envisioning the Word

The Marginal Decorations
The Full-Page Panels

7 The Manuscript’s Tumultuous Journey through History

The Bindings
Six Owners’ Hands

Appendix 1. Index of Piyyuṭim Used in the Book
Appendix 2. The Micrography Panels: Text Flow Tables and Diagrams



Folios 16r-15v of the Catalan Mahzor. <small><a href="">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>


The Catalan Mahzor facsimile edition is strictly limited to 25 numbered copies and includes a 736 page commentary volume.

Printed on specially-milled neutral pH parchment paper, no more than 22 copies will be offered for sale.

The facsimile was published in two editions:

ISBN 978-0-948223-35-8 (Sheepskin Parchment – sold out)
ISBN 978-0-948223-36-5 (Parchment Paper)

The Catalan Mahzor facsimile, commentary volume, explanatory booklet describing the manuscript’s acquisition and slipcase. <small><a href="">© Copyright 2021 Facsimile Editions Ltd</a></small>

The Catalan Mahzor Facsimile


Only 2 left in stock