Kestenbaum & Company’s fall auction, held on November 14th, was the company’s Sixtieth auction of Fine Judaica since the firm’s creation in 1996. Consigned by more than 85 vendors from around the globe, the nearly 500 lot sale of Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Graphic Art and Ceremonial Objects covered a broad range of material and subject matter.
A book within the American Judaica section of the auction was one of the top performers of the day. Prepared by Isaac Harby and of uncommon rarity, this first edition of the first original Reform prayer book issued in the United States, Charleston, 1830, was estimated at $20,000-30,000 and ultimately hammered down at $72,500 after competitive bidding (Lot 20). Further Americana highlights included a rare pamphlet written in 1819 by William Davis Robinson, an American resident in London seeking funds from wealthy European Jews to invest in land along the upper Mississippi River to be reserved for Jewish settlement. It sold for $7,500 against its estimate of $3,000-5,000 (Lot 16). Also of note was a group of letters and reports relating to the involvement of Moses Franks and the French and Indian War, 1761-63 which realized $8,000 (Lot 39) and a printed circular endorsed by Isaac Leeser relating to the provisions of chaplains during the Civil War which brought in $8,500 (Lot 30).
Generating much interest and bringing the highest price of the auction was the second book printed in Lisbon: David ben Joseph Abudraham’s commentary to the prayers, 1489. Although incomplete, this coveted book earned $76,000 against an estimate of $50,000-60,000 (Lot 5). Additional outstanding selections among early Hebrew printed books in the sale included the rare second Hebrew edition of Benjamin of Tudela’s Travels, Ferrara, 1555, which garnered $22,000 (Lot 67) and a very handsome copy of Joseph Solomon Delmedigo’s noted scientific book, Sepher Eilim, Amsterdam, 1628-29, which reached $14,000 (Lot 102). Further texts yielding strong results included a rare copy of the Babylonian Talmud, Masechta Chagiga from the third printing of the Talmud in Cracow, 1616, which sold for $12,500 against a pre-auction estimate of $4,000-6,000 (Lot 265) and an unusual prayer book, revered by Chassidim yet including customs of the Gaon of Vilna, Tephilah Zakah…Seder Nehora Hashalem, Vilna, 1823, which brought in $17,000 against an estimate of $3,000-4,000 (Lot 212).
Noteworthy in the Manuscripts section of the auction was a Spanish legal document relating to the Jews in the Kingdom of Navarre at the close of the 15th century, which sold for $14,000 (Lot 354); the original Estate Will of respected Rabbi Akiva Eger, Posen, 1837, which earned $11,500 (Lot 312) and an autograph letter signed by Reb Chaim Brisker, 1915, which realized $10,500 (Lot 352).
Graphic Art highlights included a large framed color lithograph, signed and numbered by Marc Chagall, Moses and the Tablets of the Law, 1963, which attained $10,500 (Lot 373); a large-scale oil on canvas in the style of Ze’ev Raban depicting Jews mourning at the Western Wall, 1945, which earned $8,250 (Lot 376) and Olfert Dapper’s beautifully hand-colored map--View of Jerusalem, Amsterdam, 1677, which reached $6,500 against an estimate of $2,000-2,500 (Lot 378). Buyers were also drawn to Frederick Warren Freer’s oil painting, The Schnorrer, 1872, which sold for $5,250 (Lot 381) and Anshie Kagan’s pop-art inspired oil painting, A Study in Color #770, New York, 2013, featuring a large scale quadruple depiction of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. This eye-catching work was purchased for $3,000 (Lot 393).
Within the Ceremonial Objects section of the auction, an important English Victorian silver Sabbath goblet, 1868, engraved with the coat-of-arms of Sir Moses Montefiore, realized $21,000 (Lot 412); a German silver Chanukah lamp, Frankfurt, c. 1770, garnered $16,000 (Lot 417); a pair of petite Persian gold Torah finials, c. 1940, sold for $12,500 (Lot 432) and a German silver spice tower, Nuremberg, late 18th century, brought in $15,500 (Lot 443).
Kestenbaum & Company’s forthcoming auction of Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Ceremonial Objects and Graphic Art will be held in the Winter, 2014.
For further information, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197.