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Yesterday, Harvard University Press released a haggadah which is a reproduction of a manuscript written in 1478 and held by the Library of Congress. It can be purchased on Amazon.

If I bought this, would I have trouble using it during the seder? Does the text diverge at all from the typical Artscroll haggados that everyone else will be using? If you have any comments or suggestions on the purchase, please let me know.

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I also found this review of the haggadah: tabletmag.com/arts-and-culture/books/64821/national-treasure They seem to say that the text is nearly identical to modern haggados, can anyone corroborate? –  Tzvi Apr 12 '11 at 15:09
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I have no specific knowledge of this Hagada, but given that what we have now is nearly identical to what's printed in the Rambam, and that various contemporary communities share the same basic text, I'd say that the risk of this edition being significantly different is low. –  Isaac Moses Apr 12 '11 at 15:13
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Looks very cool, by the way. I like how the review points out that the identical text demonstrates the longevity of our mesora. –  Isaac Moses Apr 12 '11 at 15:26

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I bought and used the haggadah for my second seder (which I did not lead) and can now answer my question of a week ago.

General Look

It has a dual cover: the left side in English and leading to the English discussion of the haggadah and the right side in Hebrew leading straight into the Hebrew haggadah. One possible downside is that on the English side of the cover, there is an illustration depicting two woman cooking. They are exposing some décolletage and is not exactly at an Orthodox level of tznius nowadays.

The book has a dust jacket, which is useful for holding your place. There are about 150 pages of English describing the haggadah, discussing its illustrations, and translating it. This adds some heft to the haggadah, but also, in my opinion, helps it stay open easier. The haggadah itself is reproduced in full color and looks very nice.

Readability

There are nekudos and generally, I had no problem reading the words written. There a many abbreviations. For example, באיאמה stood for the entire beginning of a brachah. There were some less obvious abbreviations that a novice would certainly not know unless listening to somebody else reciting the Haggadah text.

Differences from a Standard Haggadah

I was most surprised to see that there were the usual instructions in Hebrew on what do in certain places (e.g., "say in a loud voice," "fill cups," etc.). There was even an Eruv Chatzeiros text at the back.

The text of Birchas HaMazon was not included, nor was the Blessing after Wine. The haggadah ended with Adir Hu. Other than this, there were a few, very slight changes from the leader's text which I do not recall.

Conclusion

Overall, I liked using this haggadah. It was pleasant to look at and, as Isaac Moses pointed out, my using a haggadah that is more than 530 years old (older than many current religions) does demonstrate the longevity of our tradition.

I do not think this is a good haggadah for those who are not very familiar with the Seder or for anyone who is leading a seder. The differences will be most notable in these situations and may harm your seder experience.

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