Kestenbaum & Company’s November 29th auction of Fine Judaica featured a large number of Hebrew Printed Books from the 15th – 18th centuries, Autograph Letters, American Judaica, Kabbalistic works, Haggadahs, attractive bindings, Zionist and Holocaust-related works, illuminated and other manuscripts, and a collection of Autograph Letters from prominent 20th century Rabbis.
The star lot of the sale was Joseph Albo’s Sepher Ha’Ikarim [Book of Fundamentals]. This classic work of Jewish theology was printed in Soncino in the year 1486 and sold for $63,720, more than doubling its pre-sale estimate of $20,000-30,000 (lot 6). Other noteworthy examples of Early Printed Hebrew Books were Jacob Ben Asher’s Arba’ah Turim [Rabbinic Code of Law], Augsburg, 1540 which realized $24,780 (lot 168); Bachaye Ben Asher’s Kad ha’Kemach [Philosophy & Ethics]; Constantinople, 1515 which garnered $17,110 (lot 56); Nachmanides’ Peirush Ha’Torah [Commentary to the Pentateuch], Pesaro, 1513-14, which brought in $11,800 against a pre-sale of $7,000-9,000 (lot 195); Isaac Arama’s Akeidath Yitzchak, Salonika, 1522 which reached $15,340 sailing over it’s pre-sale estimate of $5,000-7,000 (lot 45); and Nathan Ben Yechiel of Rome’s Sepher Ha’Aruch [Talmudic Dictionary], Pesaro, 1517 which was purchased for $13,570, exceeding it’s pre-sale estimate of $5,000-7,000 (lot 197). Also finding favor with buyers was an exquisite deluxe Amsterdam edition of Midrash Rabbah, 1777, which realized $20,060 against an estimate of $10,000-15,000 (lot 193).
The highlight of the American Judaica section was Selomoh Levy Maduro’s Berith Yitzchak, Amsterdam, 1768, a rare and important Sephardic manual of circumcision customs and prayers. The book, which was in a fine period binding and belonged to Moises de Abraham Jesurun, Mohel of the Carribean Island of Curaçao, earned $23,600 (lot 24).
Among 20th century texts, a first edition of Theodor Herzl’s Der Judenstaat, inscribed and signed by Herzl himself was another top lot of the auction achieving $59,000 (lot 131); and a Holocaust-era related work of note included Tziduk Ha’Din, a small pamphlet printed in 1940 containing the Jewish Burial Service, the last religious Hebrew text published in Berlin upon the onset of the Holocaust, which reached $17,700 against an estimate of $10,000-15,000 (lot 135).
Standouts from the Manuscripts and Autograph Letters sections of the sale included a beautiful Passover Haggadah written for a prominent member of the Chai Family of Ferrara, Italy, 1767, which sold for $29,500 (lot 288); a Circumcision Book from Potsdam, 1767-1805, which brought in $10,620 against an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (lot 279); a Pinkas (ledger) from the Ezrath Torah Organization with archival information pertaining to hundreds of communities across the globe, New York, 1921-1954, which attained $7,670 (lot 268), and three autograph manuscript volumes by famed Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, which was purchased for $11,800 (lot 311). A historic letter written by Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik in April 1935 in praise of his son Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik was another highlight, commanding a premium price of $27,140 against a pre-sale estimate of $10,000-15,000 (lot 313). Also of note were two autograph postcards written by the Rogatchover Gaon in 1929 which garnered $3,068 against a pre-auction estimate of $500-700 (lot 306).