Kestenbaum & Company successfully held its Fall auction of Fine Judaica on October 27th. Included in the nearly 380-lot sale were Hebrew Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters and Graphic Art. Particularly noteworthy were American-Judaica and Rare Books from the Library of Gratz College, Elkins Park (Part II) and Exceptional Rabbinic Autograph Letters from a Private Collector.
Among the sale’s highlights were Early Hebrew Printed Books: A pristine copy of the first edition of Solomon ibn Adret’s responsa printed by Daniel Bomberg in 1519 realized $12,300 (lot 269); Nathan ben Yechiel of Rome’s Aruch Hakatzur, Constantinople, 1511, reached $9,225 against an estimate of $3,000-5,000 (lot 248) and Isaiah ben Abraham Halevi’s (SheLa”H HaKadosh) Shnei Luchoth HaBerith, Amsterdam, 1698, achieved $7,995 (lot 175).
Further 16th century books of note were Soncino’s scarce Hebrew primer—Introductio ad litteras hebraicas, Pesaro, 1510, garnering $6,765 (lot 272); Abraham ibn Ezra’s book on Astrology—De Nativitatibus, Cologne, 1537, earning $1,845 (lot 47) and Estienne’s pocket Hebrew Bible, Paris, 1543-46, yielding $4,920 (lot 56). A later Bible generating interest was a Hebrew Pentateuch from Vienna, 1815, government-authorized for use in the Courts of Law of Prague to administer the Oath to Jewish witnesses, which earned $3,690 (lot 64).
Top performers among Chassidic books were two texts relating to the Chabad movement, both written by Shneur Zalman of Liadi: Likutei Amarim (second edition), Zolkiew, 1799, attained $10,455 (lot 80) and Likutei Torah (first edition), Zhitomir, 1848-1851, was purchased for $3,998 (lot 83). Among liturgical books a Machzor, Amschel Mayer Rothschild’s personal copy, Roedelheim, 1800, brought in $4,613 (lot 258).
Notable books relating to Germany were Wolf Ehrenfried von Reizenstein’s Der Vollkommenen Pferde-Kenners, (Volume II only) Uffenheim, 1764, a unique veterinary work with a Yiddish glossary, which earned $4,305 (lot 127) and Simon Wolff Brandes’ Bi’ur Sod Hanevu’ah which realized $2,768 (lot 125).
Attracting attention in the Passover Hagadah section of the sale was a copy of the second Amsterdam Hagadah with a folding map of the Holy Land, 1712, which sold for $7,073 (lot 141). Also finding favor with buyers was the Toulouse Hagadah, produced from memory by a group of Jews interned in France during the Second World War, which brought in $8,610 (lot 154) and Beith Chorin, an attractive copy of the first illustrated Hagadah printed in France, 1767, which fetched $3,998 (lot 142).
The American Judaica section of the sale featured distinctive selections such as a handwritten Hebrew Marriage Contract dated July 1861 from Peoria, Illinois, which was acquired for $14,760 (lot 21); Judah Monis’ Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue, the first Hebrew Grammar published in the New World, Boston, 1735, which earned $11,070 (lot 7) and a volume of The Jew, edited by Solomon Henry Jackson, distinguished for being the first Jewish Periodical in America, New York, 1823-4, which realized $6,150 (lot 11).
Books relating to the Land of Israel and Zionism included two significant editions of Theodor Herzl’s important manifesto, Der Judenstaat: The first Hebrew edition, Warsaw, 1896, garnered $3,383 (lot 285) and the first edition to be printed in America, New York, 1904, was purchased for $3,383 (lot 286). Also of interest was the first edition of the Zohar to be printed in Jerusalem, 1844-46, which sold for $3,690 (lot199).
In the Art Books section, Joseph Tchaikov’s finely illustrated Yiddish book, Der Galaganer-Hon, Berlin, 1922, achieved $2,460 (lot 315) and Marc Chagall’s Yiddish Language Art Periodical, Chaliastra, Paris, 1924, brought in $1,476 (lot 295).
Highlighting the Manuscripts Section of the sale was an extensive book of prayers according to the meditations of Rabbi Isaac Luria, 1732-38, which attained $24,600 (lot 352). Also commanding high prices were Moreh Tzedek, a scholarly manuscript penned in the 18th century by the Sha’agath Aryeh’s first cousin, which earned $15,990 (lot 362); a collection of Hebrew medieval manuscript fragments, which was purchased for $11,070 against an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (lot 357) and a Pinkas from the historic Churvah Synagogue, Jerusalem, 1889-96, which brought in $20,910, nearly tripling its estimate of $5,000-7,000 (lot 351).
The Autograph Letters section of the sale was particularly impressive and buyers eagerly responded to the opportunity to own written communications by some of the most important and influential Rabbinic authorities of the 19th and 20th centuries. Selling particularly well were letters by Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin (the Chofetz Chaim), reaching $33,210 against an estimate of $15,000-20,000 (lot 332); Reb Chaim Soloveitchik, yielding $20,910 against an estimate of $12,000-18,000 (lot 342); Moses Sofer (the Chatham Sofer) earning $18,450 (lot 338); Meir Leibush Malbim achieving $9,840 against an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (lot 326) and Abraham Isaiah Karelitz (the Chazon Ish), attaining $3,383 (lot 334).
Kestenbaum & Company’s forthcoming auction of Fine Judaica will take place in early Winter 2011. The sale will feature Iberian-Judaica: The Distinguished Library of the late Alfonso Cassuto of Lisbon.
For further information please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197.