Susan and Martin Wilson, two retired schoolteachers from northern England, recently took an edition of a book from the Harry Potter series for appraisal. As an afterthought, they also inquired about a book in Hebrew that they had inherited from Susan’s uncle. Fine Books & Collections reports:
The book states it belonged to Abraham ben [son of] Meir Emden, and the date given is Thursday, the 13th of the Hebrew month of Shevat, 517 (i.e., 5517), which corresponds to February 3, 1757. Though hard to prove, it is possible Abraham was the son of Meir Emden whose father was the prominent German rabbi and talmudist Jacob Emden (1697–1776). Meir Emden (1717–1795) had been a rabbi and av beit din (senior jurist) in Konstantin in the Ukraine.
The manuscript contains Sabbath hymns, the prayer for the new moon, and Perek Shirah, an ancient hymn of praise in which every created thing—from the animate to the celestial—thanks God for its existence.
Featured on the decorated title page are Moses holding the Tablets of the Law, and Aaron, his brother, dressed in vestments of the high priest. This is a frequent motif in 18th-century Hebrew manuscripts and has its roots in the ornamented pages of earlier imprints from Amsterdam and other European printing centers. The animal, celestial, and vegetal illustrations enclosed within mauve and blue ink medallions are part of the Perek Shirah hymn. Several illustrations show families around a table celebrating the Sabbath.
The siddur sold at auction this month for over £70,000 (about $88,000).