Top 10 Rare Books


The Sarajevo Haggadah

A Haggadah is a Jewish religious text that tells the story of the Passover Seder and explains the seder ritual. Reading a Haggadah and performing the ritual is a key part of Jewish religious worship.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is a handwritten and illustrated book that was probably created in the 14th century. It's an illuminated manuscript, which means the pages are decorated with copper and gold [source:].

While the Sarajevo Haggadah is remarkable simply for its craftsmanship, beauty and rarity -- the illustrations depict Bible scenes in rich color -- it's also led a full and fascinating life. Much of its history is murky, but it resurfaced in the 1890s when a Spanish shepherd tried to sell it to provide for his family [source: Carleton College]. The Sarajevo Museum purchased it, but the Nazis invaded Croatia in 1941; museum officials managed to safely hide the Haggadah before it could be confiscated.

It was returned to the museum -- then managed another narrow escape in 1992 when thieves broke into the museum during the Bosnian War. They threw it on the floor, thinking it worthless. Police sent it to the Croatian National Bank to be stored in an underground facility, where it remained until the end of the war. Today it resides in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo [source: Bosnian Institute].

As a singular, historic book, the Sarajevo Haggadah is essentially priceless, but in 1991 it was appraised for insurance purposes when Spain requested it for a temporary display. The estimated value: $700 million [source: New York Times].