Rare Jewish manuscript found in garage expected to fetch £500,000

The Haggadah (a book read by Jews on the first night of Passover) dates from 1726

A rare Jewish manuscript created for the Oppenheimer banking dynasty is expected to be sold to a foreign collector when it comes up for auction next week. It was discovered forgotten in a soup box in a semi-detached house in north Manchester.

The Haggadah (a book read by Jews on the first night of Passover) dates from 1726 and is exquisitely illustrated by one of Judaism’s most famous scribes. Its late owners brought it to Britain as they fled the Nazis before the Second World War. It is expected to fetch up to £500,000.

The price tag for the 20-leaf text is expected to make it unaffordable to British institutions and communities although Jewish scholars are calling for its eventual buyer to put it on public display.

It was discovered by Bill Forrest, an auctioneer, during a routine valuation at a home in Bury, Greater Manchester, this year. The owner died in 2007 and her niece, who wishes to remain anonymous, wanted to sell some of the items she had inherited.

Mr Forrest stumbled across the Haggadah buried among other books inside an Osem kosher soup carton in the garage. The family had no idea it was there.

“The thing that stood out when I first handled it was the quality and skill that went into it. It is finely handwritten with a quill and beautifully illustrated,” he said. “The family are still shell-shocked,” he added.

The velum manuscript, which contains more than 50 coloured scenes from the Torah, was taken to Amsterdam where an expert concluded it was the work of Aaron Wolff Herlingen, scribe to the Imperial Court in Vienna in the mid-18th century.

It is believed it was commissioned to mark the birth of Emanuel Mendel Oppenheimer, the first child of Samuel Emanuel Oppenheimer of Vienna and a close descendant of the great banker and imperial court diplomat Samuel Oppenheimer.

It is not known what happened to the manuscript, although it has been in the present family for a century. They smuggled it out of Belgium before the Nazi invasion in 1940, eventually settling among the orthodox community in Manchester.

Dr Yaakov Wise, of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester, said the discovery was “miraculous”. Over the past 300 years of tumultuous and blood-soaked Jewish history many items of Judaica have been lost in Europe or deliberately destroyed.

“It is very, very lucky that it survived from that period. It is a miracle that it was not thrown out, that it was found and someone realised what it was. I would call it divine providence,” Dr Wise said.

“It would be very nice if it went into a Jewish museum, to a library or a university where the public or scholars can go and see it,” he added.

“This was probably in use for 200 years. There are wine and food stains on it which is exactly what you would expect when it was at the table. It is easy to imagine the wealthy family in Vienna sitting around in their wigs and their buckled shoes reading it by candlelight,” Dr Wise said.

Another, larger, Haggadah by Aaron Wolf Herlingen describing the Exodus was sold in the United States this year for $800,000 (£496,000).

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before