“Signs and Wonders: 100 Haggada Masterpieces” by Adam S. Cohen— A Feast for the Eyes

Cohen, Adam S. “Signs and Wonders: 100 Haggada Masterpieces”, The Toby Press, 2018.

A Feast for the Eyes

Amos Lassen

When Passover comes to find, we usually think of the Seder and the feast of wonderful foods that we get only once a year. This year we will be feasting on more than food with the arrival of Adam S. Cohen’s “Signs and Wonders: 100 Haggada Masterpieces.” Many of us grew up using the old traditional haggadot that had no pictures and were not very beautiful. Over the last few decades illustrated haggadot began to find their ways to bookstores and to our Seder tables as did reproductions of older magnificently illuminated haggadot and we have come to understand that no book in Jewish history has been illustrated more often than the Passover haggada.

Now we have, in one volume, a collection of illustrations from these haggadot and this is the first study of the history of the illustrated haggada, from the Middle Ages to the present. Looking back over the last 700 years, the book focuses on the finest examples of illustrations of the story of the exodus and Jewish history and tradition. Each plate is reproduced in full color and is featured with a short description about its meaning, its imagery, the artist and a bit more about the haggada it is a part of.

Taken as a whole, this is a beautiful volume of Jewish art through the ages. The illustrations are gorgeous and the analyses are excellent and the book’s introduction is clear and beautifully written. We see religious values in artistic form and all together in one sumptuous volume. This is both an art book and “ history of the Jewish imagination.” The stories behind the illustrations are for us to uncover ourselves and it is rare to find that in a book such as this.

Cohen has carefully chosen and presented what he considers the most attractive and significant haggadot from the Middle Ages and reading about them and looking at the illustrations is a wonderful treat.

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