June 21, 2005--Kestenbaum & Company’s select auction of Superior Hebrew Printed Books From Two Distinguished Private Collections featured some of the very best Hebrew post-incunabula. The June 20th sale also offered fine selections of American Judaica.
An exceptionally rare Constantinople 1509 edition of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah was highly sought after and brought in the highest price of the day at $148,240 against an estimate of $80,000-100,000. Top sellers also included a Constantinople 1540 edition of Jacob ben Asher’s Rabbinic Code in a grand contemporary binding which was bought for $64,900; a rare first edition of Maimonides’ fundamental Rabbinic text, Sepher HaMitzvoth (Book of Precepts), Constantinople, c. 1510, which garnered $56,050 against an estimate of $40,000-60,000; and Jonah ben Abraham Gerondi’s classic ethical treatise, Sha’arei Teshuvah, which realized $42,480 against an estimate of $25,000-30,000.
Also finding favor with buyers were a rare first edition of Nachmanides’ Hasagoth (Criticism of Maimonides’ earlier philosophical tract), Constantinople, 1510 which reached $41,300 against an estimate of $20,000-30,000; a magnificent Bomberg Venetian Bible, 1546-8, which sold for $31,860 against an estimate of $12,000-15,000; and a rare Venetian 1547 edition of Isaac ibn Sahula’s Meshal ha-Kadmoni, “the illustrated Hebrew book par excellence”, which brought in $29,500.
Further noteworthy results included a Mantua inaugural edition of the mystical Zohar, the most sacred and influential of all Kabbalistic works, in a three-volume set dated from 1558-60 which was purchased for $37,760; and the first Jerusalem edition of the Passover Hagadah, 1842, which realized $20,060 against an estimate of $8,000-10,000.
The American-Judaica section of the sale performed particularly well proving that it is reemerging as a popular area of collecting. Prime examples included Hayyim Isaac Carigal’s seminal Sermon Preached at the Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, 1773, which sold for $46,020 against an estimate of $25,000-30,000; a rare and complete ten-volume set of Isaac Leeser’s Discourses on the Jewish Religion, Philadelphia, 1866-67, which made $34,220 against an estimate of $10,000-15,000; and a fine, grandly bound first edition of the first Jewish translation of the Bible into English by Isaac Leeser, Philadelphia, 1853, which fetched $33,040 against an esitmate of $8,000-10,000.