Haggadah shel Pesah (Prague Haggadah)

Collection ID



Printed Book




Prague, (Czech Republic)


Hebrew and Aramaic, with marginal notes in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English


Printed on Vellum


10.8 × 7.4 × 1 in. (27.5 × 19.0 × 2.5 cm)

Exhibit Location

On View in The Impact of the Bible, Bible in America

The Haggadah is the central text of the Seder ritual meal that takes place at the beginning of Passover. It is one of the most printed Hebrew books. The Prague Haggadah of 1526 is the earliest fully illustrated printed Haggadah, and its woodcuts had an enormous influence on the history of Haggadah illustration. This copy is important to the history of Jews in America, as it was owned by the Lewith family of Charleston, South Carolina, for a large part of the 19th century, before being donated to Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim of Charleston. It contains birth and death announcements for family members noted in the margins, which shows how central it was to the Lewith family, similar to family Bibles that many other American families have cherished.

Printed in 1526 by Gershom Cohen, Prague, Czech Republic. Acquired before 1905 by Edward Joseph Lewith (1826–1905), Charleston, South Carolina;[1] By descent in 1905 to Henry Lewith (1876–1926), Charleston, South Carolina; By descent in 1926 to Arthur Lewith (1876–1940), Charleston, South Carolina; By descent in 1940 to Josephine Frances Schafer nee Lewith (1901–1990); Donated in 1947 to Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim of Charleston, South Carolina;[2] Deaccessioned and purchased at auction in 1982 by the Valmadonna Trust Library, London, England;[3] Purchased at auction in 2015 by David Jeselsohn, Zurich, Switzerland;[4] Purchased in 2019 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma;[5] Donated in 2020 to The Signatry, under the curatorial care of Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.

[1] The Haggadah contains a death announcement for Edward Joseph Lewith, as well as a birth announcement for his son, written in the margins on folios 11r and 12v, which shows family ownership and use of the book. [2] As described in a letter from Josephine Frances Schafer nee Lewith to the synagogue dated June 16, 1947, and minutes of the synagogue board dated June 25 and July 7, 1947. [3] The auction took place at Sotheby’s, New York, New York, November 24, 1982. [4] The auction took place at Sotheby’s, New York, New York, on December 22, 2015, with the final sale in January 2017. [5] Acquired through Les Enluminures, Chicago, Illinois.

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