April 8, 2005 — Buyers responded eagerly to Kestenbaum & Company’s auction that included the library of noted historian, bibliophile and beloved teacher, Abraham Joseph Karp on Tuesday, April 5th. Professor Karp was influential in the world of the Jewish Book and was a pioneering scholar in the field of American Jewish History. Featured in the sale were many fine examples of early printed Hebrew books, Bibles, Hagadahs and attractive bindings along with a small group of graphic art.
The top lot of the sale was an eye-catching micrographic Sephirath Ha’omer Chart, possibly Dutch. After heavy bidding in the room and on the phones, it was ultimately purchased for $134,800. Another coveted lot was a fine crisp copy of the Bible in Hebrew printed by Daniel Bomberg, Venice, 1524-5. One of the best of a selection of Bibles in the sale, competitive bidding pushed the selling price up to $118,000 against a pre-auction estimate of $30,000-40,000
Further books achieving high prices were a rare Passover Hagadah, the first to be printed with an English translation, London, 1770, that realized $63,720 against an estimate of $15,000-18,000; a rare edition of Maimonides’ Ma’amar Tehiyath ha-Methim (treatise on Resurrection), Constantinople, 1569, which brought in $61,360 against an estimate of $20,000-30,000; and Schneur Zalman of Liadi’s book of Chaddidism--Sepher Likutei Amarim, Slavuta, 1796. This first book to lay out the philosophy of Chabad Chassidism was highly sought after and garnered $59,000 against an estimate of $30,000-50,000.
Additional sale highlights were a rare compendium of papal bullae, “Diverse Papal Bullae Commencing with Boniface VII through Paul IV” including several directed against the Jews, Rome, 1559, which sold for $35,400 against an estimate of $20,000-25,000; Joseph Gikatilla’s book on Kabbalah, Portae Lucis (Gates of Light), Augsburg, 1516, which realized $33,040 against an estimate of $25,000-30,000, and Don Isaac Abrabanel’s Perush Nevi’im Rishonim (commentary to Former Prophets), Pesaro, 1511 which was bought for $20,060 against an estimate of $15,000-20,000.
Rounding out the sale in the graphics section was the earliest Biblical painting done by an American Jewish artist--Solomon Nunes Carvalho. The framed painting entitled Moses Before the Amalakites, oil on board, America, ca. 1848-1852, achieved $37,760 against a pre-sale estimate of $25,000-30,000.