Auctioneers of Rare Books, Collectibles and Fine Art

Auction 20 - June 2nd 2003

Important Hebrew Printed Books from the Library of the Late Salman Schocken
Offered for Sale by Auction on
Monday 2nd June, 2003 at 5pm

Sale Results

The appeal of fundamental texts of rabbinical literature offered in excellent condition from the library of one of Europe's great entrepreneurs and publishers was hard to resist for serious Judaic book collectors at Kestenbaum & Company. Enthusiastic private buyers from around the world, mostly bidding by telephone, snatched up every one of the lots auctioned at firm's June 2nd sale of Important Hebrew Printed Books from the Library of the Late Salman Schocken (1877-1959). The 38 lots on offer, many sought-after early editions of Hebraic classics, brought in a total of $819,530. More than three-quarters of the auction sold above their high estimates with many realizing double their high estimate and some top lots tripling their high pre-sale estimates.

Salman Schocken was a celebrated bibliophile and discriminating collector who deployed much of his substantial fortune into forming a library of some of the rarest and most important Hebrew books and manuscripts ever assembled. The books from his library offered in the sale are early books and like the Jews themselves, suffered persecution and tribulations. Many are marked with the notes of the Christian censors that scrutinized Hebrew books between the years of 1555 and 1688.

Highlights of the Sale:
(prices include 15% buyer’s premium)

  • The most enthusiastic response of the sale was evoked for Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (a book of Rabbinic code), Constantinople, 1509. This highly significant edition realized an impressive $155,250 against a pre-sale estimate of $40,000-60,000. Lot 31.

  • Also generating tremendous interest was an important first edition Midrash Rabba (Midrashim on the Pentateuch) five parts inone volume in beautiful condition, Constantinople, 1512, that attained a premium price of $116,150 against an estimate of $20,000-30,000. Lot 28.

  • A prayer book according to Italian rite (Machzor Kephi Minhag Roma), Bologna, 1540-1, parts of it printed on vellum and extensive, important scholarly notes written in the margins. It sold for $35,650, above its estimate of $25,000-30,000. Lot 26.

  • A prayer book (Selichoth) consisting of penitential prayers according to Aschkenazi rite; an extremely rare Fano, c. 1505 edition was purchased for $39,100, topping its estimate of $20,000-30,000. Lot 24.

  • A Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch), complete with all four parts, Venice, 1567. Sold for $19,550. Lot 18.

  • A first edition of an important work of Jewish Philosophy by one of the greatest Hebrew poets of the middle ages - Judah ben Sanuel Halevi, Fano, 1506. It is a rare, complete edition that garnered $55,200, more than doubling its pre-sale estimate of $15,000-20,000. Lot 13.

  • A first edition Book of Precepts by Maimonides, Constantinople, c. 1515-20, that achieved $54,050, sailing over its pre-sale estimate of $12,000-15,000. Lot 32.

  • A Hebrew Bible from Antwerp, 1566, a delightful set of seven volumes which was presented to Salman Schocken as a gift from President Chaim Weitzman with a dated autographed note. Sold for $7,475. Lot 7.

Click Here to Download the
June 2nd, 2003 Catalogue PDF