17 Prayer book


Samuel Dreznitz

Nikolsburg, 1740

Parchment, pen drawing

Donated by Dávid Pap, 1911

Because of the Jewish tradition to use handwritten letters, even after the propagation of printing, handwritten prayer books kept their paramount importance. In the 18th century it became fashionable in Central Europe, mainly among wealthy Jewish familes, to use illuminated, handwritten and personalised luxury prayer books. This small prayer book containing only 19 parchment pages was copied by Samuel Dreznitz, so the sacred work of the copier is manifested in every single letter. This type of working method is linked to the sacredness of the Hebrew text. The cover and interior illustrations are reminiscent of the then fashionable copper engravings and the copier also shows on the cover that he used the so-called Amsterdam font in the book. This means that letters are as if they had been printed in Amsterdam by the most prestigious printing-house of the era. The book belonged since 1812 to one of the oldest and most respected Jewish families in Prague, the Epsteins, who moved to Vienna at the peak of their economic successes and then to Budapest after the 1873 stock market crash.