June 2007—Kestenbaum & Company’s Fine Judaica auction of Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Graphic and Ceremonial Art held on June 26th offered buyers a wide-ranging selection of more than 300 lots from which to choose. Featured in the sale was an array of Early Printed Hebrew Bibles, Hagadahs, American-Judaica, Illustrated Books and an Important Collection of Zionistica and Autograph Letters particularly focusing on key dramatic moments of 20th century Jewish History.
Especially notable in the Autograph Letters section was a postcard written and signed in both Hebrew and Hungarian by Hanna Senesh, poet, pioneer and heroine of World War II, which realized $10,600. This was the first time that any of this heroic young woman’s correspondences had ever appeared at auction. The postcard was written by Hanna in Kineret (Israel), August 9th 1941, to her uncle, Professor Michael Fekete, telling of her plans to travel to Jerusalem and attend an agricultural seminar.
Two eye-catching lots in the sale also commanded much attention. The extremely attractive Arthur Szyk Hagadah, one of 125 copies, printed entirely on vellum and richly illustrated in color, London, 1939, which achieved $59,000; and the striking catalogue cover lot-- El Lissitzky’s Chad Gadya, Kiev, 1919, which brought in $33,040. This illustrated book is one of only seventy-five copies extant. Another Hagadah that was favored by bidders was the historic Gurs Hagadah, France, 1941, which attained $18,880 against an estimate of $6,000-8,000.
Chassidic works sold well with a rare First Edition of The Alter Rebbe’s Siddur, Kopyst, 1816, earning $35,400 and Grand Rabbi Dovid Biderman of Lelov’s personal manuscript copy of an important Kabbalistic Prayer Book, Jerusalem, 1881, which brought in $23,600.
Noteworthy in the book section were Isaac Ibn Sahula’s Meshal ha-Kadmoni [“Proverb of the Ancient”] with eighty unusual woodcut illustrations, Venice, circa 1547, which realized $23,600 and Sebastian Brant’s comprehensive History of Jerusalem from the Creation until the Sixteenth-Century, Strasbourg, 1518, which sold for $17,700. In the Zionistica section, a superlative, uncut copy of Theodor Herzl’sDer Judenstaat [Herald of Modern Zionism], Leipzig & Vienna, 1896, was purchased for $18,880 sailing over its pre-sale estimate of $7,000-10,000.
Further sale highlights from the Manuscripts section of the sale were Mordechai ben Hillel Hakohen’s Sepher ha-mordechai, Germany, circa $14th century, which earned a high price of $30,090; a rare hand written 18th century wedding invitation from the well-known Rabbinic scholar--Abraham Broda of Prague, which garnered $21,240 after very competitive bidding against a pre-auction estimate of $4,000-6,000; and the Sidur RaSHa”SH (prayer book with Kabbalistic meditations) which realized $11,800.
Most prominent in the Graphics section was H. Rothschild’s beautifully framed oil painting, Rabbi at Morning Prayer, Poland, which sold for $8,260 against an estimate of $5,000-7,000. and rounding out the sale in the Ceremonial Art section were large painted wooden Synagogue lions which were purchased for $2,832.