Kestenbaum & Company’s spring auction of Fine Judaica was held on Thursday, June 23rd. The sale featured Part II of the historic Cassuto Collection of Iberian-related Books and Manuscripts, a collection formed by several generations of the Cassuto family, becoming one of the most outstanding libraries of works by and about the Jews who originated from Spain and Portugal. Also highlighting the auction was a selection of fine early printed books from the Delmonico Collection, a celebrated library of fine Hebrew books formed by the late New York-based collector, William Roth and books recently de-accessioned from a European institutional library.
The Cassuto Collection yielded strong interest from institutional libraries with two universities in particular actively bidding on the Iberian texts. The auction started off with a bang as a text by Isaac (Fernando) Cardoso, Las Excelencias de los Hebreos, Amsterdam, 1679, realized $13,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $5,000-7,000 (Lot 2) and Joseph Penso de la Vega’s Retrato de la Prudencia, Amsterdam, 1690, garnered $25,000 against an estimate $8,000-10,000 (Lot 30). Further Iberian selections favored by buyers included a 17th century unpublished polemical manuscript opposed to the discriminatory treatment of "New Christians" by the office of the Inquisition in Portugal, which brought in $10,000 against an estimate of $6,000-9,000 (Lot 47) and an important manuscript written on vellum in 1506, an official record of Jewish properties vacated following the expulsion of Jews from Portugal in 1497, which reached $15,000 (Lot 52).
Elsewhere in the auction, a selection of books printed in the ancient Syrian town of Aleppo each performed well and sold for substantially more than their pre-auction estimates: Shalom Hedayah’s Shalom Le'Am, 1896, attained $1,400 against an estimate of $500-700 (Lot 63); a 1914 edition of Tikun Chatzoth earned $2,750 against an estimate of $500-700 (Lot 64) and a Finance Report of The Aleppo Jewish Relief Committee of New York City, 1917, achieved $3,250 against a pre-sale estimate of $500-700 (Lot 65).
In the American Judaica section of the auction, most notable was a printed Letter of Recommendation for Haham Isaac Carigal, Emissary of Hebron Jewish Community, Amsterdam, 1758. Carigal later became a prominent figure in Colonial American history. The lot sold for $7,000 (Lot 68). Also of interest was a copy of the First Emancipation Act for the Jews of America, London, 1739, which was purchased for $4,250 (Lot 67).
Among the numerous important Hebrew books offered in the sale, a rare, complete, first edition of Jacob Joseph of Polonoye’s Toldoth Ya’akov Yoseph, the book that gave rise to the Chassidic movement, Koretz, 1780, garnered $95,000 (Lot 136); a complete first edition set of Shimon ben Yochai’s seminal Kabbalistic text Sepher HaZohar Mantua, 1558-6, beautifully bound and in exceptionally fine condition, yielded $45,000 (Lot 280) and the highly unusual and contentious text by Jacob Emden, Sepher Shimush, Amsterdam, c.1758, brought in $21,000 against an estimate of $12,000-15,000 (Lot 159). Also noteworthy was Maimonides’ Guide des Egares [Guide to the Perplexed] in the Judeo-Arabic original with French translation by Solomon Munk, Paris, 1856-66, which realized $4,500 against a pre-auction estimate of $600-900 (Lot 263), this copy inscribed by Lord Rothschild to Dr. Herman Adler, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire.
Generating attention from bidders in the Passover Hagadah section was a lavish edition designed by Albert Rutherston, London, 1930. This particular copy, the publisher’s own, printed entirely on vellum and in a custom binding, was purchased at its high estimate of $40,000 (Lot 180).
Further highlights included a copy of the infamous White Paper of May 1939, London, which earned $2,500 against an estimate of $700–1,000 (Lot 190); KZ - Bildbericht aus fünf Konzentrationslagern, a scarce visual record documenting the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, 1945, which realized $3,000 against an estimate of $1,500-2,000 (Lot 195) and Olfert Dapper’s travel book with maps and illustrations of the Land of Israel, Amsterdam, 1681, which earned $6,000 (Lot 212).
An exceptional item in the Manuscripts section of the auction was a highly original Scroll of Esther from the Cassuto Collection that was boldly illuminated in vivid colors by a member of the Marrano community of Porto, Portugal in the 1930’s which was purchased for $18,000 against an estimate of $10,000-15,000 (Lot 325).
The next auction of Fine Judaica, including the Cassuto Collection, Part III, will be held in Fall, 2011.
Kestenbaum & Company is also pleased to announce that its premier auction of Fine and Rare Vintage Wines will take place in September. Specific date to be announced shortly.
For further information relating to bidding or any other queries, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197.