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From one book, many stories

Photos by Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe

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To the untrained eye, the Sarajevo Haggadah might seem like something one would pass over on first glance. The cover is battered, the binding beat up; the thing looks like it’s been through the war. In an era when the book as a material object has begun to recede from view, we may well move on to something shinier, more readily accessible: a gently used copy of “The Hunger Games,” perhaps, or a download of the latest, hottest book for our e-reader.

But in passing over the worn, delicate volume, we’d be missing something extraordinary: the opportunity to come face to face with a medieval codex, the calfskin pages of which vibrate like a series of hallucinations, adorned with scenes from the Old Testament and illuminated with copper and gold. It’s the sort of beauty, found in unexpected places and times, that takes your breath away. And while we’re on the subject, it has been through the war.

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