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Rare manuscript put in UNESCO’s book

The Rothschild Miscellany, a 15th-century, Hebrew illuminated book, is one of two Israeli entrants to the global collection

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Most eyes may have been on UNESCO’s White City of Tel Aviv for Thursday night’s White Night, but Jerusalem recently got some cultural love as well, with the addition of two of the city’s written gems into the UN body’s register.

The Israel Museum’s Rothschild Miscellany, a rare, Hebrew illuminated 15th-century manuscript and one of the jewels of the national museum’s collection, was included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register for 2013, along with Yad Vashem’s Pages of Testimony collection.

The register lists documents that have been recommended by a UNESCO international advisory committee, which judges the global significance and universal value of the nominated documents.

The Rothschild Miscellany and Yad Vashem’s Pages of Testimony collection are Israel’s first documents to be accepted this year to the register, which includes some 300 documents/collections.

The idea by UNESCO — United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — is to create an apolitical dialogue among countries and civilizations by sharing each nation’s cultural heritage. That aim is fulfilled through a number of programs, including the Memory of the World Register, which aims to preserve the world’s documentary heritage by making it permanently accessible to all.

A look at a page of the Rothschild Miscellany, recently registered with UNESCO (Courtesy Israel Museum)
A look at a page of the Rothschild Miscellany, recently registered with UNESCO. (photo credit: Courtesy Israel Museum)

The manuscript details preparations for Passover, circa northern Italy in the 15th century. Handwritten on vellum in brown ink, tempera, gold and silver leaf, the 21-centimeter-high manuscript is adorned with miniatures, offering a fascinating glimpse into the customs, dress and lives of Italian Renaissance Jewry.

The museum recommended the manuscript in 2012, and was inscribed in the register in 2013.

“It is a great honor for us,” said James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum. “It is perhaps the finest Hebrew illuminated manuscript from the 15th century and one of our collection’s rarest treasures.”

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