History and Provenance of Szyk Haggadah Original Artwork

All forty-eight original watercolor and gouache paintings that appeared in Arthur Szyk’s Haggadah were completed between 1934 and 1936 in Łódź, Poland. He then took them to London in 1937 to supervise the printing of The Haggadah (1940) by the Sun Engraving Company (Beaconsfield Press, publisher). Szyk brought all the paintings to the United States when he immigrated to New York in late 1940. After the artist died in 1951, the family continued to hold the paintings until their private sale in 1980 to David Brass (E. Joseph Booksellers, London) and Warren Starr (New York). In June 1982, the artwork, all forty-eight paintings in one lot, were purchased at a Sotheby’s Judaica Auction (New York) by the Forest Group, LLC (Richard and Lois Janger, Chicago). The Jangers were marvelous caretakers of The Haggadah originals until their private sale to the Robbins Family (California) in 2006. 

The first edition (1) was printed on vellum by the Sun Engraving Company, London, 1940 and published by the Beaconsfield Press in a limited edition of 250 copies. All were numbered and signed by Arthur Szyk and Cecil Roth, translator and commentator. The first appearance of a popular edition on paper (2) took place in Israel in 1956, published in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by Massadah and Magen. Ten thousand copies were printed, and another 10,000 were printed in 1957– all with blue velvet covers, and in a blue clamshell cloth box. Subsequent editions appeared in 1960, 1962, throughout the 1960’s and 1980’s up until 2003. These editions were printed in two sizes, some with velvet covers, embroidered covers, and metal covers (3) (even some with stone insets). Some were in cloth boxes, others in paper slipcases, some in paper boxes. All editions up until this point were printed from the same reproduction plates used in the 1940 edition.

In 2008, Historicana (Burlingame, California) published an entirely new edition from the original artwork, in Deluxe and Premier Editions (4), limited to 215 and 85 sets respectively. These editions featured an entirely new translation and commentary by Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin, Chicago, and a new design. A companion volume Freedom Illuminated: Understanding The Szyk Haggadah (edited by Byron Sherwin and Irvin Ungar) accompanied the limited edition sets, as well as a documentary movie entitled “In Every Generation, Remaking The Haggadah.” ( http://szyk. com/szyk-haggadah/documentary-film. htm?mnHd=1&mnSubHd=9 ) The movie was directed by Jim Ruxin, Los Angeles.

In 2011, Abrams Books (New York) published a new popular, usable edition of The Szyk Haggadah (5), created by Irvin Ungar and featuring Rabbi Sherwin’s commentary based upon the 2008 Historicana editions. The Abrams edition added more instructions for using Szyk’s Haggadah, added contemporary rituals in the Commentary Section that have evolved in Passover ceremonies since the 1940 publication, and included transliteration of key readings and songs. It was published in both softcover and hardcover gift editions. 

Source: www.szyk.com