The KITVEI KODESH Collection:
Long considered extinct, the art of illuminated manuscript-making made an unexpected comeback in the late 20thcentury as Jewish artists delved into their aesthetic and spiritual heritage. Like their medieval predecessors, the best of these contemporary artists transformed somber liturgical texts into one-of-a-kind treasures, extravagantly embellished and magnificently bound – but available only to the world’s wealthiest art patrons.
Today, Judaica Heirlooms of Jerusalem has found a particularly appropriate way to pass on this heritage to 21st century art lovers. In Judaica Heirlooms’ unique workshop, an international group of scribes and illustrators have married ancient skills with modern sophistication to produce The Kitvei Kodesh Collection, a dazzling series of limited-edition facsimiles which rival the best of illuminated medieval manuscripts but cost far less than the precious originals.
Kitvei Kodesh facsimiles are created from new, original works of art conceived and produced by Judaica Heirlooms - unlike other facsimile editions, which are generally reproduced from antique manuscripts. Many of these original works were commissioned from Judaica Heirlooms by private collectors, and all are based on age-old Hebrew texts: the Bible, the prayerbook, the Haggadah, and more. Every one is the exclusive creation of Judaica Heirlooms’ workshop, where scribes and illustrators work on the originals for months, richly adorning them with vivid illustrations, radiant colors and precious gold leaf. Rigorously trained in the ancient techniques of manuscript making, these artisans fulfill Judaica Heirlooms’ aesthetic vision while remaining true to Jewish law and lore.
For The Kitvei Kodesh Collection, the hand-lettered and illustrated manuscript is partially reproduced on heavy, textured art paper or pure parchment, using innovative 21st-century technology. Illuminators and artists complete the printed pages by hand, applying the elaborate colors and flourishes which characterize every volume. The binders then take over, stitching the leaves into exquisitely tooled and embossed leather bindings. The result – another magnificent Kitvei Kodesh facsimile, virtually indistinguishable from the original.
As a work of art, every edition in The Kitvei Kodesh Collection is numbered and authenticated by the artist’s and publisher’s signatures. As a work of contemporary Judaica, every volume provides a living link to the quintessential traditions of the People of the Book. And, as a luxury afforded to the fortunate collectors of the 21st-century, each Kitvei Kodesh volume is bound to gladden the hearts of its owners as it enhances their home and their celebrations throughout the year.
JUDAICA HEIRLOOMS – THE WORKSHOP
Like those who penned and illustrated the splendid manuscripts of the Middle Ages, the scribes, artists, and binders of Judaica Heirlooms’ workshop have spent long years honing their skills and techniques. Most of them were trained in the renowned academies of the former Soviet Union , where the art of the manuscript was meticulously preserved until recently. Master artisans, they brought with them to Israel trade secrets and techniques – of hand-applied inks and gold leaf, of binding and embossing, of illumination and illustration - that have been considered virtually extinct since the Renaissance. It is Judaica Heirlooms’ great privilege to enable these artists to continue practicing their craft as they build their new lives in Israel .
Ya’akov Daniel, head of the Judaica Heirlooms workshop, is a sofer stam, a ritually qualified Hebrew scribe. He began studying art in Tel Aviv at the age of 14; at 18, he turned to Jewish philosophy and mysticism. Deeply immersed ever since in Jewish art, liturgy and observance, he delves into ancient Hebrew sources to find the inspiration for The Kitvei Kodesh Collection. It is Ya’akov Daniel who, like Hebrew scribes of old, pictures each new volume in its entirety – calligraphy, illumination and illustration - from the moment of its inception. Collaborating closely with his colleagues in the workshop, he calligraphs and interprets the text, explains its meaning, and suggests illustrations and decorative styles. Ultimately concerned with overall layout and aesthetic harmony between script, illumination, and paintings, he brings each edition to a sumptuous realization of his original vision.
Judaica Heirlooms’ bookbinders and embossers hail largely from the United States , where a burgeoning interest in collectors-edition art books stimulated a revival in associated crafts during the 1970’s. After studying and working with world-renowned bookbinders across the USA , they became consummate professionals themselves, expert in both traditional methods and the latest technological innovations. In the two or three decades since they moved to Israel, these highly select craftspeople have achieved international status for the inimitable finish they have provided – bindings, presentation boxes and embossing – for antique volumes and limited-edition, fine art books such as The Kitvei Kodesh Collection.
The Kitvei Kodesh Collection – In Production
Though times have changed significantly, the production of each Kitvei Kodesh facsimile edition is remarkably similar to that of the great medieval manuscripts, demanding months of painstaking, highly skilled labor. The costly materials and methods invested in each hand-bound volume ensure that Judaica Heirlooms’s books meet the highest standards of the past and present:
- Parchment – Hand processed in a Jerusalem workshop which caters to professional clients throughout Europe and the USA. Notable for its exquisite finish and feel, this vellum is produced in strict accordance to Jewish religious strictures, guaranteeing that Kitvei Kodesh editions on parchment [arekasher as well as beautiful, and] may be used in any synagogue or other ritual setting.
- Paper – Heavy-weight, elegantly textured fine art papers produced by Caran d’Arches and other international firms….
- Inks - Mixed by the artists themselves according to individual inclination and training, using ingredients only available in the FSU and imported exclusively for Judaica Heirlooms.
- Colors - Tempera, gouache, or acrylic, based on the artist’s own style and technique..
- Printing – Facsimiles on parchment are printed through a highly refined and innovative technology known only to one printing house in Israel. Facsimiles on paper are photo offset with numerous color plates and inkings for enhanced color and veracity in reproduction. Lithography and silkscreening are also employed for the reproduction of illustrations. Facsimile editions on parchment are each limited to a maximum of 90 signed and numbered volumes. Facsimiles on paper are produced in signed and numbered editions of 613.
- · Gilding – 24-carat gold leaf is applied by hand to facsimiles on parchment, using techniques perfected centuries ago by European artisans. Facsimiles on paper are heat-embossed with silver and gold foil using contemporary processes which brilliantly emulate true silver and gold leaf.
- Binding - Fine leathers are used for exterior bindings, most of which are elaborately tooled and embossed with 24-karat gold. Inside, volumes are distinguished by such features as suede lining and hand-made endpapers. Presentation boxes can be custom designed, inscribed and/or ornamented according to the client’s wishes.