Conservation and Scientific Analysis

Conservation of the Prato Haggadah, made possible by a grant from the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation, was carried out over the course of three years by Library Conservator Nellie Stavisky. Through several centuries of use, the manuscript accumulated layers of dirt, food, and wine on the surface of each page. Additionally, repeated handling of the Prato Haggadah caused some of the delicate ink, paint, and gold leaf to crack and separate from the parchment pages. The frequent use of this Haggadah necessitated repeated rebinding over the course of its history.

Conservation treatment began with the removal of its most recent binding along with residual layers of glue attached to the spine. Additional treatment involved reattaching flaking ink, gesso, paint, and gold layers by applying a dilute gelatin solution to the parchment with a brush. This painstaking work was carried out with the aid of a microscope, proceeding letter by letter. After the exhibition of the Prato Haggadah, the manuscript will be rebound in a fourteenth-century Spanish-style binding.

To this date, little scientific analysis has been carried out on Hebrew illuminated manuscripts. Through the generosity of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pigment analysis was performed on the Prato Haggadah by scientist Silvia Centeno. Raman spectroscopy (a nondestructive method of scientific analysis) was used by Dr. Centeno to determine the composition of each paint color used by the illuminator of the Prato Haggadah.