New York show for rare 14th century Haggadah

The parting of the red sea as depicted in the Hagaddah

The parting of the red sea as depicted in the Hagaddah

A priceless 700-year-old Passover Haggadah will travel from the UK to New York after painstaking microscopic preservation work carried out by Manchester University.

The 14th century book, one of the world's finest examples of Mediaeval Jewish manuscripts, recounts the Passover story with 57 lavishly decorated vellum leaves. It has undergone eight months of intricate conservation work under a microscope to secure flaking areas of pigment and gold leaf. University conservator Steve Mooney will personally accompany the book as it is flown to the United States to go on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on March 27. He said hours of minute handiwork was "nerve-wracking".

"One slip of the hand and you could remove a fragment of gold leaf or pigment by mistake. My job is to take it to the museum by hand into a secure area where it will acclimatise before going on display," he added.

The Haggadah originated from Catalonian Spain before being owned by James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford, a bibliophile whose private rare book collection was one of the finest in 19th century Britain. It has been preserved in the university's John Rylands library ever since it acquired it in 1901.

Dr Yaakov Wise from the University of Manchester's Centre for Jewish studies said:

"The Haggadah is one of the central texts of Rabbinic Judaism. Its use on the first nights of Passover by Jews all over the world from Alaska to Zimbabwe continues a tradition over 3,000 years old.

"It connects the Jews of this generation to their ancestors who left slavery in Egypt for a life of freedom in their own country and is the story of the first national liberation movement in history."

Rylands Collections and Research Support Manager John Hodgson the manuscript is one of the finest Haggadot in the world.

"The Rylands Haggadah is among the top ten individual items of greatest significance within the JRUL's Special Collections, in terms of its research, cultural, heritage and financial value."

Last updated: 1:29pm, March 15 2012