Nelson-Atkins Museum Acquires Copy of Barcelona Haggadah Hebrew Manuscript

A rare copy of the Barcelona Haggadah edition, which was printed in 1992 in London through a special project with the British Museum and is the only copy in a four-state region, has been acquired by the Spencer Art Reference Library of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. The funding to acquire the work was given by longtime Museum supporters Sybil and Norman Kahn in memory of Thomas W. Levitt, a former two-term chairman of the Nelson-Atkins Society of Fellows.


The original Barcelona Haggadah manuscript dates from 14th century in Spain, and is named for one of the illustrations showing the coats of arms of Barcelona. Photo: Shirley Harryman.

“The gift of the Haggadah to the Nelson-Atkins library is very appropriate, because Passover was Tom’s favorite family holiday,” said Molly Levitt, widow of Tom Levitt, who died as a result of a rare neurological disease in 2009. “Our family is honored that Tom will be remembered at the Museum with this special gift through the generosity of the Kahns.”

The original Barcelona Haggadah manuscript dates from 14th century in Spain, and is named for one of the illustrations showing the coats of arms of Barcelona. The heavily decorated, original manuscript was acquired by the British Museum in 1844. The facsimile edition acquired by the Nelson-Atkins is rare; there are no other copies in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa or Nebraska. The closest location to see another copy is in the University of Chicago Libraries.

“The gift of the Barcelona Haggadah facsimile is an important addition to the Museum because it is a prime example of an illuminated Hebrew Medieval manuscript documenting an important cultural artistic and historical tradition,” said Marilyn Carbonell, head of the Museum’s Library Services. “This facsimile fills a gap in the library’s research collection and strengthens our capacity to serve the entire regional community. We are most grateful to the donors, Sybil and Norman Kahn, for this gift in memory of Tom Levitt.”

The Haggadah, traditionally used at home for the Jewish celebration of the Passover holiday, is one of the most frequently illustrated texts of Jewish literature and tells the story of Exodus. The story of the “four sons” and the ceremonies of the Passover Seder are shown in the illustrations. The Haggadah is a narration or telling of the story and is used during the special Seder meal.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access and insight into its renowned collection of more than 33,500 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and new American Indian and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. The institution-wide transformation of the Nelson-Atkins has included the 165,000-square-foot Bloch Building expansion and renovation of the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are Wednesday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Thursday/Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, Noon–5 p.m. Admission to the Museum is free to everyone. For Museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org.

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