Kestenbaum & Company’s March 19th auction of Fine Judaica achieved many strong prices especially in the area of American Judaica. The 352-lot auction also featured an impressive Collection of Holy Land Maps offered from a private collection in London, along with a wide variety of Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Ceremonial Objects and Graphic Art.
The top lot of the auction was the particularly rare, first complete Jewish Prayer-Book printed in the New World--New York, 1766. Written according to the order of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews and translated into English by Isaac Pinto, this scarce first edition, first issue was purchased for $130,000 (Lot 8). [All prices stated are the hammer-prices, exclusive of buyer’s premium.] Also contributing to the success of the Americana section were the complete monthly and partial weekly runs of Isaac Leeser’s The Occident, the first successful periodical recording Jewish life in America in the middle decades of the 19th century. The set of 26 monthly volumes, printed in Philadelphia from 1843-1869 and magnificently bound, achieved $125,000 (Lot 18) and the weekly volumes brought in $37,500 (Lot 19). A further lot in the American-Judaica section of the auction evoking an enthusiastic response from bidders was a rare mid-19th century pamphlet printed in Bridgetown, Barbados celebrating the consecration of the newly erected synagogue structure there. Estimated at $15,000-20,000, it ultimately realized $60,000 after competitive bidding (Lot 17).
Highlights among important Hebrew Printed Books offered in the sale included a unique Prague, 1602 edition of the Tosfos Yom-Tov’s Tzurath Beith HaMikdash He’Athid, appended with an entirely unrecorded engraved diagram of the future Temple in Jerusalem, which earned $47,500 (Lot 125); and four very rare Hebrew leaves from Spain, fragments from the very first edition of Talmud Tractate Kidushin, Guadalajara, circa 1480-82, which attained $37,500 (Lot 181). Among other Printed Books, the auction catalogue cover lot, Imperio de Dios, an exceedingly rare and controversial work by the Marrano poet, Miguel Daniel Levi de Barrios, Brussels, c. 1689, in which he presents a Messianic vision of the future, garnered $50,000 (Lot 61).
Generating interest in the Manuscripts section of the sale was a portion of Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed (Moreh Nevuchim), Yemen, early 14th century, which hammered for $32,000 against an estimate of $15,000-20,000 (Lot 225); and Maimonides’ Sefer Nashim written in Yemen, circa 1500, which sold for $30,000 against a pre-auction estimate of $12,000-18,000 (Lot 224). Also of particular note was a one-page fragment written by Rabbi Akiva Eger concerning a comment by Rashi on the Talmud, which brought in $7,000 against an estimate of $3,000-5,000 (Lot 212). Additionally performing well was an autograph manuscript by the brilliant Yeminite scholar Rabbi Yichya Kafah, Milchamoth Hashem, his scathing attack against Kabbalah, written in Yemen in 1932. Estimated at $5,000-7,000, strong bidding took the lot to $26,000 (Lot 217).
Buyers were also drawn to a particularly strong and diverse section of Holy Land Maps:
The Burchardus-de Schass significant map from the dawn of Holy Land cartography, Lyons, 1491, reached $12,000 (Lot 257) while Ptolemy- Waldseemuller’s Tabula Moderna Terre Sancete, Ulm, 1482, realized its high estimate of $15,000 (Lot 274) and the Quarta Asie, Ulm, 1482, also sold at its high estimate of $15,000 (Lot 275).
Well-received in the Graphics section was Marc Chagall’s hand-colored lithograph, Angel Leading Elijah, which earned $5,250 (Lot 292) and Francesco Griselini’s rare engraved decorative plaque for the Sukoth festival, Venice, mid-18th century, which attained $4,750 (Lot 287).
Within the Ceremonial Objects section of the sale, a uniquely large hand-chased silver and gold Chanukah Menorah by Shuki Freiman sold for $22,000 (Lot 331) and a lavish Austro-Hungarian silver Pidyon Haben plate, Lvov, 1847, achieved $10,000 (Lot 330).
Kestenbaum & Company’s forthcoming auction of Fine Judaica will take place in June, 2015. To discuss a consignment, please contact Daniel Kestenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org