Prayer book, shawl
Prayer book, shawl ISTOCK

A rare medieval High Holy Day illustrated and annotated prayer book is expected to sell for between $4 and $6 million at auction.

The 700-year old Luzzatto High Holy Day Mahzor, published in southern Germany in the late 13th or early 14th century, is one of less than 20 surviving prayer books of its kind. Sotheby’s described the prayer book, which offers a window back in time to the lives and religious rituals of Jews in medieval Europe, as the rarest Medieval prayer book it has offered for sale in the last hundred years, The Guardian reported.

The book contains annotated handwritten notes in its margins, which give insight into the whereabouts of its owners, as the book travelled through various regions in central and western Europe, including Franconia, Alsace, Lake Constance, as well as northern Italy and France.

During each era, the Jewish community’s customs and rituals of the area were added in the prayer book’s margins.

The scribe of the prayer book was a man named Abraham who was also its illustrator. His name is known due to clues decorating each reference to the patriarch Abraham denoted with a feathered crown or special wing-like symbols.

The prayer book was described by Sharon Liberman Mintz, a senior consultant of books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s, as “exceedingly rare” and full of “elegant calligraphy and beautiful decoration.”

MIntz added that it was rare during the medieval period for a Jewish scribe and artist to produce a prayer book. At that time, many Hebrew manuscripts were illustrated by Christian artists.

For that reason, she called the Luzzatto High Holiday Mahzor “especially noteworthy.”

The annotated notes in the margins are “a witness to Jewish communal life, a repository of communal identity. And it’s just fascinating that we can follow along,” said Mintz.

The book was named after its 19th century owner, Samuel David Luzzatto, an Italian-Jewish scholar. When he died, the book was purchased by the Paris-based Alliance Israélite Universelle. The organization is now selling the book to fund educational projects.

It will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York in October.

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