Ancient Jewish texts brought back to life

New Zealand Jewish Chronicle - July 2007

by Josh Reich

The idea of collecting facsimile editions of ancient texts may seem a little odd at first glance, but for Auckland man Peter Bruell it is as natural as collecting any form of art. For the past 10 years Peter has collected facsimiles, faithful reproductions of ancient Jewish texts and manuscripts from UK-based Facsimile Editions.

He says his interest was sparked when one of the congregation brought back from the UK a brochure advertising the company’s reproduction of the Meah Berachot - a miniature prayer book.

He was so enthralled he purchased the facsimile of 100 blessings for his wife Claire on their wedding anniversary.

He has since purchased a copy of the Rothschild Haggadah for his son’s 21st birthday, as well as the Perek Shirah (a hymn) and the recently released Megillat Esther, which celebrated the deliverance of Jews from evil.

Peter says despite costing in the thousands of dollars, the artistic effort that goes into each piece, as well as the designs presented, makes them a treasured possession.

“They are a joy to pick up every time I’ve got a spare minute.”

Peter says it is enlightening to see how skilled people were 600 years ago.

“The quality of what they produced - it just blows you away.”

He says the reproductions are created as close as possible to the original document.

Where gold or silver lettering has been used, the facsimiles will do the same, and where a page has food or wine stains, they will be added rather than an attempt be made to fill in the missing text or illustration.

Even pin holes that the original writer put in each page to keep the lines straight were added.

It is this attention to detail that keeps Peter coming back for more.

“Every time I get one I say this is it, this is my last one.”