A 14th Century Jewish masterpiece, preserved by experts at The University of Manchester's John Rylands Library, is being launched on the iBookstore this week.
The Rylands Haggadah, currently a centerpiece at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, will be available online after specialist photographers at the world famous University of Manchester library, with, media developers Armadillo Systems, digitised the manuscript using state-of-the-art technology.
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.”
Brought to life by realistic page turning software, the e-book also contains links to additional video and audio content depicting episodes from Exodus onwards, the story starts with the call to Moses and finishes with the crossing of the Red Sea.
“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,” continued Dr Wise.
“Though Orthodox Jews will not be able to use this book during the Passover ceremonies, it's a valuable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about Jewish culture.”
The Haggadah was initially produced in Catalonia, Spain, before being sold by the 25th Earl of Crawford to the founder of the John Ryands Library Enriqueta Rylands in 1901, as part of the famous Crawford collection of manuscripts.
John Hodgson, Rylands Collections and Research Support Manager, said: “This manuscript is one of the finest Haggadot in the world.
“It is important for its intrinsic beauty and for various textual details, but it is also a key source for the study of the illumination of Hebrew manuscripts in general.
“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.”
The text took eight months for Conservator Steve Mooney to make ready for digitisation, having to secure the areas of pigment and gold leaf which had started to crack and flake.
Such high levels of concentration were needed to do this that he could only work on the manuscript for two to three hours a day using a high intensity microscope.
Finally the text has been transformed for readers to view online, and a bonus feature of the product is a recital by Rabbi Shlomo Ellituv, Minister of the Spanish and Portuguese congregation in Manchester.
Michael Stocking, Managing Director of developers Armadillo Systems, said: “We're delighted to be working with the John Rylands Library on this project.
“It's always a privilege to work with books of this importance, but in this case the recording of the book adds another dimension that really it book to life.”
The Rylands Haggadah is available for the introductory price of £1.99 from the iBookstore on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch or at www.iTunes.com/iBookstore