This Haggadah represents the culmination of a thousand-year-old tradition of illuminated Hebrew manuscripts. Upon its publication, The Szyk Haggadah was described by the Times Literary Supplement of London as “a book worthy to be placed among the most beautiful of books that the hand of man has produced.” Each individually illuminated text is an example of both extraordinary artistic accomplishment and of profound scholarship. There could be no more fitting subject than the Haggadah for this milestone collaboration between Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), the Polish refugee and internationally acclaimed illuminator, and Cecil Roth (1899-1970), the preeminent British doyen of Jewish history, who edited the text and appended a historical introduction.
Given the unfolding events in Nazi Europe, the Haggadah became, for Szyk, a personal and political statement. Dedicating his Exodus narrative to King George VI (1895-1952), Szyk acknowledged the key role that England, his temporary place of residence, had to play in Jewish survival: “At the Feet of Your Most Gracious Majesty i [sic] humbly lay these works of my hands, shewing forth the Afflictions of my People Israel. arthur szyk [sic], illuminator of Poland.” Of his accomplishments, Szyk wrote in French on the page opposite the title: “I am but a Jew praying in art, and if I have worked, if I have succeeded to some degree, if I have been favorably accepted among the elite of society, I owe it all to the teachings, traditions, and eternal virtues of my people.”
Irvin Ungar, “Telling the Story: A History of the Szyk Haggadah,” in Byron L. Sherwin and Irvin Ungar (eds.), Freedom Illuminated: Understanding the Szyk Haggadah (Burlingame, CA: Historicana, 2008).
Avraham Yaari, Bibli’ogerafyah shel haggadot pesah me-reshit ha-defus ve-ad ha-yom (Jerusalem: Bamberger & Wahrman, 1960), 159 (no. 2285).
Isaac Yudlov, Otsar ha-haggadot: bibli’ogerafyah shel haggadot pesah me-reshit ha-defus ha-ivri ad shenat 720 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1997), 271 (no. 3712).
Isaac Yudlov, “Defusei kelaf be-beit ha-sefarim ha-le’ummi ve-ha-universita’i,” Kiryat sefer 68 (supplement) (1998): 261-273, at p. 272 (no. 41).
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