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
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
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.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project