Kestenbaum & Company’s April 7th auction of Fine Judaica saw strong results in the areas of Ceremonial Objects and Graphic Art consigned from the celebrated collection built by Michael & Judy Steinhardt of New York City. Nonetheless, the resulting high prices realized for Rabbinic manuscripts offered later in the sale continues to emphasize Kestenbaum & Company’s leadership in the fields of Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Unquestionably, the most hotly contested lot of the sale was a significant mid-19th century manuscript containing autograph poems by both the Chasam Sofer and his son, the Michtav Sofer, with variances and unpublished material. Tagged with a lowball estimate of $15,000-25,000, competitive bidding pushed the selling price up to an impressive $140,000 (lot 208). An additional lot generating fierce bidding was an autograph manuscript by another member of the Sofer family, the Kethav Sofer, Pressburg, 1870, reaching $20,000 against its pre-sale estimate of $3,000-5,000 (lot 209).
Among a section of various important texts that had each stemmed from such storied collections of David Solomon Sassoon, the Cairo Genizah and the Montefiore Endowment / Jews’ College Library, a particular highlight was a manuscript fragment of four pages from Tractate Shabbath, Orient, 11th century, representing one of the earliest extant Talmud manuscripts, with considerable textual variations from the later printed edition. Estimated at $20,000-25,000, it hammered down at $34,000 (lot 213).
Further strong performing manuscripts came from the third portion of the Tel-Aviv based “A Singular Collection.” Noteworthy results were generated for an extensive collection of autograph and signed responsa by members of the Rabbinical Courts of Fez in the 17th-18th centuries, bringing in $58,000 and far exceeding its pre-sale estimate of $10,000-15,000 (lot 145). Also finding favor with buyers was an autograph manuscript by 17th century rabbi Moshe ibn Habib, which attained $35,000 against an estimate of $12,000-18,000 (lot 129).
Top selling lots in the American Judaica section of the auction stemmed from the library of the late David de Sola Pool, Rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York from 1907 until his death in 1970. Exceptional results were generated for an autograph manuscript by Philadelphia Hazzan Jacques Judah Lyon, Calendar for the Years 1837-41, with occasional personal information, which achieved $28,000 against an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (lot 331). Also selling well was a rare Hebrew manuscript composed in Surinam, 1762, which realized $16,000 (lot 327).
Within the section of printed books, Sermoës que Pregaraõ os Doctors Ingenios do K.K. de Talmud Torah, complete with Romeyn de Hooghe’s exquisite engravings, Amsterdam, 1675, yielded $13,000 (lot 237); Olfert Dapper’s travel book on the Holy Land, Amsterdam, 1681, earned $7,700 (lot 282) and the very first Kosher cookbook to appear in English, London, 1846, sold for $8,200 (lot 258).
Among the exemplary items of ceremonial Judaica consigned from the Steinhardt Collection, top performers included a majestic 18th-century Venetian silver Sabbath lamp, which brought in $70,000 (lot 40), a regal mid 19th- century Ukrainian Chanukah lamp, which realized $35,000 (lot 1) and a Polish parcel-gilt silver and gem Torah Shield, inscribed 1754, which was bought for $30,000 against its pre-sale estimate of $10,000-15,000 (lot 38).
Standouts from the Graphic Art section of the auction included a large oil painting by Jan Styka entitled, Festival Prayers with Lulav and Ethrog, 1892, which sold for $15,000 (lot 79) and a World War I period poster designed by Alfred F. Burke, “Share, Jewish Relief Campaign”, Brooklyn, c. 1914, which hammered for $8,000 (lot 88).
Kestenbaum & Company’s next auction of Fine Judaica will take place in June 2016. For further information, to request images, or for any other queries, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197 or Jackie@kestenbaum.net