Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Yom Kippur Machzor Sells for 8.3 Million Dollars


A medieval Jewish prayer book sold for $8.3 million at the Sotheby's auction house Tuesday, fetching the highest price ever paid for a Hebrew manuscript.

Known as the Luzzatto mahzor, the rare book is named after its former owner, a 19th century scholar, theologian, poet, and book collector by the name of Samuel David Luzzatto. It originated in Germany's Bavaria region in the late 13th or early 14th century. Over the years, the prayer book traveled to Italy and France.

In 1870, it was purchased by the Alliance Israelite Universelle, a Jewish cultural institution in France. Despite concerns the book would go into private hands, the institute said the move was necessary, citing financial debt.

Written by a scribe by the name of Abraham, the book includes several ancient versions of prayers that have since disappeared from Ashkenazi tradition. Its lavish illustrations and embellishments showcase the community's wealth.

The winning bid reportedly went to an anonymous American buyer.

Asked by Israel Hayom why Israel's National Library did not purchase the ancient text, a spokesperson said, "The National Library regularly examines existing sales in Israel and overseas and weighs each case individually." The spokesperson noted "the price for acquiring the mahzor is very high, and requires the enlistment of the state and donors to assist in such an acquisition."


Brisker said...

The owner was the great-grandson of the Ramchal, known as the Shadal. I don't remember now if the Shadal was a koifer mamash or just had some major hashkofa issues. The gedolim certainly had a problem with him.

Further down the line in the generations was a woman descendant named Luzzatto-Coen. She was the maternal grandmother of a character you may have heard of, Fiorello La Guardia. He went to Catholic church on Sundays, perhaps unaware he was a Yid. He was otherwise the first Jewish Mayor of New York City, long before Abe Beame was elected.

Anonymous said...

Sotheby's guesstimated it would sell for between $4 million to $6 million. The winning bid was actually $8.307 million.