Lot 210
  • 210


8,000 - 12,000 USD
bidding is closed


160 pages (15 1/2 x 11 3/4 in.; 393 x 298 mm) printed on Arches Grand Vélin pure rag paper. Hebrew and English; Hebrew section titles and select other texts printed in Shahn’s distinctive Hebrew typeface. Lithographed frontispiece and title; twelve full-page collotype and pochoir plates after Shahn’s original watercolors; ten collotype plates after drawings of the scenes of Had gadya (An Only Kid); floral decorations on pp. 8, 90. Scattered staining on pp. 57, 64, 100; slight dampstaining to lower edge of pp. 47-48. Unsewn sheets, as issued, laid into original stiff wrappers; title gilt in Hebrew and English; rear joint of wrappers splitting at head; original glassine overwrap with small tears and normal discoloration. Additional materials, each housed in a numbered and custom-labeled folder: 1) an extra set of the color plates (frontispiece, title, and full-page collotypes) on Auvergne hand-made paper; 2) a set of the full-page collotypes left uncolored (except for some red) on Arches Vergé paper; 3) three of the original guide-sheets and stencils; and 4) two proof states of the lithograph frontispiece. All folders tied within a custom burlap enclosure. The whole ensemble housed in a vellum folding box, slightly scuffed and worn; title gilt on upper and lower boards and on spine (together with press and artist name); two intact silver-gilt clasps on fore-edge.

Catalogue Note

Limited edition, number L of 16 copies numbered K to Z, signed by the artist on the frontispiece and introduction page. Inspired by the tradition of medieval illuminated Hebrew manuscripts, Lithuanian-born American graphic artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969) originally created eleven of the twelve full-page color plates for this Haggadah over the course of six months circa 1930. The illustrations, like those executed for his secular works, highlight the struggle against oppression, a theme central to the story of Passover. The figures depicted were modeled after the Jews of Djerba, whom Shahn had encountered during a year-long journey through North Africa.

After an unsuccessful attempt to print the Haggadah in color, Shahn sold the completed plates to Frieda Warburg, from whose son Edward they passed in 1947 into the permanent collection of The Jewish Museum. In 1958, however, Shahn met Arnold Fawcus, a publisher of art books and facsimiles, and the two agreed to partner in seeing the Haggadah project through. Shahn completed the twelfth illustration, added drawings of the scenes of the Had gadya (An Only Kid) song, and designed a beautiful frontispiece and title page, while Fawcus commissioned British scholar Cecil Roth to compose an introduction and notes (and to reuse his 1934 translation of the Haggadah text). Considered to be among “his finest and most original work[s],” this deluxe edition of the Haggadah is a monument to the skill of one of the twentieth century’s most famous Jewish artists.


Howard Greenfeld, Ben Shahn: An Artist’s Life (New York: Random House, 1998), 65-66, 292-303.