Precious Possessions

Esslingen Mahzor

Scribe and artist: Kalonymus ben Judah
Germany, 1290
ms. 9344

This elaborate mahzor (holiday prayer book; lit. "cycle") contains the Ashkenazic rite for the Jewish festivals of Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur. The Esslingen Mahzor was copied and decorated by Kalonymus ben Judah in Esslingen, Germany and completed on January 12, 1290. This massive work is only the first volume of the mahzor; the second volume is currently housed in the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam. In medieval Germany, very large, illustrated prayer books, such as the volume shown here, were often intended use by the cantor of a synagogue. Enclosed within a monumental arch are the opening words of a liturgical hymn recited on the first day of Rosh ha-Shanah.