March, 2006—Kestenbaum & Company held an auction of Fine Judaica on March 23rd which included an eclectic mix of Printed Books, Autograph Letters, Manuscripts, Graphic and Ceremonial Art in a wide selection of values. Among the sale highlights were a collection of Early Printed Hebrew Bibles and beautiful Passover Hagadahs in the book section, the Ernest W. Michel Collection of Autograph Letters, and artwork by Issachar-Ber Ryback, acquired directly from the Artist in Paris.
Good sellers in the book section were Moses Isserles’ Zoth Torath ha-Chatath, the first halachic work by the Ram”a, Cracow, 1569, which brought in $33,040, more than doubling its pre-sale estimate of $12,000-15,000; a fine copy of Isaac ben Jacob Alfasi’s Hilchoth Rav Alfas [Rabbinic Code], Sabbioneta, 1554-5, which realized $30,680 against an estimate of $20,000-25,000; and a small popular work of French Judaica attributed to the Jewish community of Arles, La Prophetie et Revelation du Prophete Esdre [Apocypha], Lyons, circa 1560, which garnered $21,240 against an estimate of $8,000-10,000.
Outstanding in the Hagadah section was the magnificent Arthur Szyk Hagadah, London, 1940, which sold for $33,040. Also popular were a 19th century American Hagadah, Service for the Two First Nights of Passover, New York, 1886, which was bought for $8,260, amazingly, sailing way over its pre-sale estimate of $500-700; and a scarce copy of the first separate printing of the Levi Hagadah, London, 1794 which went for $8,260 against an estimate of $4,000-6,000.
Liturgical works were well represented by the first prayer-book printed in the land of Israel, Sepher Sephath Emeth, Safed. 1832, which realized $25,960 against an estimate of $15,000-20,000; and Raphael Immanuel Hai Ricchi’s Mishnath Chassidim, an important Kabbalistic and Chassidic prayer book, Koretz, 1785, which sold for $18,880 over its pre-sale estimate of $10,000-15,000. The Bible collection also performed well, the best price being $10,030 which was paid for a Sepher Tehillim, Safed, 1833; the very first book of Psalms printed in the land of Israel. But most significantly of all was Triumpho del Govierno Popular y de la Antiguedad Holandesa, a text of great significance in Judeo-Spanish literature, which sold for $218,800.
Prominent in the manuscript section of the sale were a fascinating Pinkas of the Aschkenazic Community of Amsterdam, 1751-1791, which garnered $29,500; a portion of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Al Safa, Yemen, 1591, which brought in $27,140, tripling its pre-sale estimate of $7,000-9,000; and a fragment from a 14th century notarial protocol book, containing deeds between Christians and Jews of Cervera (Spain), which sold for $11,800.
Notable in the Autograph Letters section were a signed Photograph of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, President Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat walking into the White House for the signing of the Oslo Accords; a photograph of the Camp David Accords with signatures of President Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin; a printed pamphlet containing the text of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty and a photograph of President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter flanked by Israeli President Yitzchak Navon, Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, signed by President Carter.
In the artwork section of the sale, buyers were attracted to noted artist Issachar ber Ryback’s vivid paintings. An important member of the Russian-Jewish modernist movement, some of his best selling works in the auction included Musician, which sold for $9,440; Pastoral Scene, which realized $7,493, and an oil on panel painting of an Elderly Couple, which was purchased for $6,490.
Rounding out the sale among the Ceremonial Art was a most interesting piece of Americana, a leather document portfolio-case with silver lock, and gold stamped owner’s name and date: “Abraham Aguilar, Kingston Jamaica 1777”. Mr. Aguilar was the treasurer of the synagogue of Kingston, Jamaica. The case garnered $7,080.