A rare medieval High Holy Day illustrated and annotated prayer book sold for a record $8.3 million on Tuesday, twice its estimated low price of $4 million.
The sale makes the book the most expensive Jewish prayer book every sold at auction, ARTnews reported.
The 700-year old Luzzatto High Holy Day Mahzor, published in southern Germany in the late 13th or early 14th century, was sold from the collection of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU), a Paris-based Jewish organization. The money will be used by the AIU to fund its educational projects.
The book was purchased by an American who has a large collection of medieval Hebrew manuscripts, Sotheby’s auction house said.
The Luzzatto is one of less than 20 surviving prayer books of its kind. Sotheby’s described the 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 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 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.”