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An Jewish 18th-century miniature book of blessings and prayers
Me'ah Berachot from a private Collection in New York
An 18th-century miniature book of blessings and prayers.
A fine limited edition of 550 copies: 400
copies printed on vellum and 150
copies printed on a specially milled parchment paper. this is copy 495
ISBN 0 948223 146 £ 595
This edition was sold out years ago
This Me'ah Berachot manuscript, a miniature prayer book, is an exquisite
exe of how Jewish heritage can be passed down for the delight and
enrichment of future generations. It was handwritten and illuminated in
Central Europe during the eighteenth century, and is today in the hands of
a private collector in New York.
Traditionally, pious Jews seek to recite blessings
on at least one hundred
occasions daily. This unique manuscript, the name Me'ah Berachot means 'one
hundred blessings', is a compendium of blessings, each allocated to a time
of day or to a special event. It gathers together morning prayers, Grace
after Meals, prayers on retiring at night (Qriat Sh'ema), petitions for the
safety of travellers and many other texts to be recited on special
occasions – for exe on seeing a beautiful tree, on hearing thunder or on
wearing a new garment for the first time. Since it also includes three
blessings specifically related to womanly duties (mitzvoth nashim) - on
breadmaking, ritual bathing and kindling the Sabbath lights - the book was
probably commissioned as a special gift to a woman. Such a splendid prayer
book may well have been presented to a bride and would doubtless have been
treasured by generations of her descendants. Indeed it is a miniature
handbook of Jewish life intended for Jews of all ages.
Folios 0v-1r, showing the beautifully illustrated title page.
Besides the beautifully written text, the manuscript contains an
illuminated title-page and twenty-nine miniature panels illustrating some
of the activities associated with the blessings included. Each painting is
headed by a cartouche containing the relevant blessing, preceded by
directions on how to recite it, written in a more cursive Yiddish script.
Additional miniatures fascinatingly depict a variety of everyday genre
scenes - lighting the Sabbath candles, family mealtimes, tending the
garden, putting on new clothes, entering the ritual bath, and even the then
common medical practice of bloodletting.
The manuscript’s seventy pages measure 36
x 40 mm (1.4" x 1.6"). It is
bound in its original gold-tooled leather case with handmade silver clasps,
bosses and corner plates. Despite the minute size of the book, the script
is so clear that all the texts can be read with ease.
This little book is a remarkable example of
the revival of Hebrew
manuscript illumination in the eighteenth century. At that time, long after
the invention of printing, it was recognized that a handwritten and finely
illustrated book offered a sense of luxury and respect for religious ritual
unmatched since the Middle Ages.
The suede-lined presentation case housing
the commentary volume at left,
and the facsimile in its own gold-tooled enclosure.
The facsimile edition is a faithful copy of the original manuscript. The
publishers, Linda and Michael Falter supervised each stage of work on this
limited edition to ensure that the highest possible standards were
No effort was spared in their quest for excellence.
Every aspect of the
original has been meticulously recreated. The first 400 copies were printed
on fine vellum. The presentation case is crafted
in full leather, lined in suede, and holds both the facsimile and the
This unique facsimile was printed in a strictly
limited edition of 550
copies (400 on vellum numbered 1 - 400 and 150 on specially milled
parchment numbered 401 -500. The remaining 50 Ad Personam copies were
numbered I - L). The plates have been destroyed (with rabbinic permission
and in compliance with Halachic requirements) and no further copies will be
issued. The edition is now sold out.
In accordance with the manuscript owner's
wishes, royalties from the sale
of this facsimile were donated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in
The commentary volume contains both a full translation and a full
description of the manuscript and the Jewish world from which it comes. It
is written by Iris Fishof, formerly Chief Curator of Judaica and Jewish
Ethnography at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, who also describes each
miniature and provides a scholarly analysis of the texts that they
illustrate. It is translated and edited by Jeremy Schonfield.
The commentary volume next to the Me'ah Berachot facsimile.
The commentary volume was printed on 90gsm Fabriano Ingres and bound in
fine-grain goatskin to match the presentation case. The facsimile is housed
in its own container within the suede-lined goatskin presentation box which
also holds the commentary volume.
This edition was sold out years ago