A Tale of Two Machzors, Or Three

In an earlier piece, posted during the Autumn Yom Tov season last year, we discussed the 1785 edition of the Machzor, first produced in London in 1770/1 by the three printers Isaac, Moses and Jacob. In particular, we pondered over the fact that this edition had been issued over a decade after the three printers had gone bankrupt. This mystery was solved by my finding that the pages of the earlier edition had simply been reissued by the enterprising printer, Alexander, with a new title page bearing his name.

The 1785 edition of the Machzor comes in two volumes. The first (called by the Hebrew, “Chelek Rishon” on the Title page) has the prayers for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur whilst the second (“Chelek Sheni”) has the prayers for Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot.

Copies of the 1770/1 edition in the same two volume format exist (both volumes illustrated) and I had always assumed that this was the only format of the 1770/1 edition. I had always wondered, however, why Cecil Roth refers to the early edition as having three volumes rather than two.

Above: The title page of 1770/1 edition of the Machzor, the first of two volumes
Above: the title page of the second volume of the 1770/1 edition of Machzor, the last of the set

During a recent visit to Los Angeles, I acquired from my good friend and fellow bibliophile, Rabbi Pini Dunner, a volume of the 1770/1 edition which may solve the problem. It is a copy of the 1770/1 edition which has “Chelek Sheni” on the title page and says it contains the prayers for Yom Kippur and Sukkot (illustrated). Moreover, when I got home, I found I had a copy with “Chelek Rishon” on the title page saying it had prayers for Rosh Hashanah only (illustrated).

Above: The title page of a copy of the 1770/1 edition, saying it is “Chelek Sheni” and that it contains the prayers for Yom Kippur and Sukkot
Above: A copy of the 1770/1 edition’s title page, labelled “Chelek Rishon” and saying it contains only prayers for Rosh Hashanah

So, it appears there were two issues of the 1770/1 Machzor. Firstly, a two-volume edition (which Alexander reissued in 1785) with Volume 1 containing Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur and Volume 2 containing the three festivals. Secondly, however, there was a three-volume edition with Volume 1 containing Rosh Hashanah, Volume 2 Yom Kippur/Sukkot and (presumably) a Volume 3, containing Pesach and Shavuot.

I would love to confirm that this volume 3 was actually issued (rather than Roth simply inferring its existence from the other two. So, please let me know if you have it, even if you don’t want to allow me to complete my set by selling it to me!

About the Author
Professor David Latchman, CBE, is a leading UK academic, author, and philanthropist, and currently holds the position of Vice-Chancellor of Birkbeck University of London, having led the university since 2003. Latchman holds First-class Honours in Natural Sciences, a MA, and a PhD, and has completed a three-year post-doctoral fellowship at Imperial College London. He also has a DSc (higher doctorate) from the University of London.
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