Auctioneers of Rare Books, Collectibles and Fine Art

December 2002 Cover

Auction 18 - December 17th 2002

Magnificent Hebrew Manuscripts, Incunabula and Other Valuable Hebrew Printed Books
Sold By Order of
The Trustees of Jews’ College, London.
Offered for Sale by Auction on
Tuesday, 17th December, 2002


An extremely rare Hebrew Manuscript on vellum, a Rash"i Commentary to the Pentateuch dated 1457, was the star lot at Kestenbaum & Company's auction of Magnificent Hebrew Manuscripts, Incunabula and Other Valuable Hebrew Printed Books Sold by Order of the Trustees of Jews' College, London on December 17, 2002. This highly important work, a manuscript which remained unseen and until now unexamined by scholars, generated tremendous interest and spirited bidding in the salesroom and on the phones. It ultimately sold to an international private buyer on the phone for $434,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $200,000-300,000, making it the highest price achieved by the auction house for a single lot. There are no comparables to this manuscript since such a fundamental text has never before appeared at auction. In all of classical Jewish literature, the French born rabbi known as Rash"i, was and still remains the premier commentator and exegete to the bible.

This slim and highly select single-owner sale of printed and manuscript Judaica included rare early edition bibles, prayer books, biblical commentaries, and books on Jewish philosophy and Jewish history. Of the 18 lots offered, 14 found buyers and brought a sale total of $954,950. Many of the highly desirable works commanded premium prices well above their pre-sale estimates due in part to the fact that they were in excellent condition and fresh to the market, having been housed at Jews' College, London since the mid nineteenth century.

Among the highlights of the book section was a rare compilation of the first editions of three important works of Don Isaac Abrabanel dated 1505. Isaac Abrabanel was pre-expulsion, Spanish Jewery's premier philosopher and statesman. Highly uncommon to find all three bound together, the work earned $69,000, more than tripling its pre-sale estimate of $15,000-20,000. Another book attracting an enthusiastic response was a second edition Mashal Hakadmoni (a rare Venetian edition of a collection of allegories, fables and puns with moral influences) by Isaac ibn Sahula, 1547. This exceptionally beautiful copy with pictures realized $69,000, sailing over its pre-sale estimate of $15,000-20,000. Also finding favor with buyers was a Mishneh Torah by Maimonides, 1490, an elegant early edition of the most important of medieval halachic texts which although lacking the final 90 leaves, sold for $78,200 against an estimate of $30,000-40,000.

Mr. Jack V. Lunzer, well-known worldwide as custodian of the greatest collection of Hebrew printed books in private hands commented after the auction, "The sale was a benchmark in the annals of Hebrew Typography and Hebrew Book Sales. The prices were phenomenal. I congratulate Daniel Kestenbaum on his tremendous effort and hard work in realizing such a result."


Highlights of the Sale:
(prices include 15% buyer’s premium)

PRINTED BOOKS:

Lot 1:
ABRABANEL, DON ISAAC. Rosh Amunah [on the principles of faith] * Zevach Pesach [commentary on the Hagadah, with text] * Nachlath Avoth [commentary to Ethics of the Fathers, with text]. Three works bound in one (As Issued). FIRST EDITION. Complete With Three Title Pages. Constantinople, David & Samuel ibn Nahmais, 1505.

RARE COMPILATION OF THE FIRST EDITIONS OF THREE IMPORTANT WORKS. ALL BOUND TOGETHER AS ISSUED. Highly uncommon to find ALL THREE extant AS SUCH.
Sold for: $69,000.

Lot 2:
ABRABANEL, DON ISAAC. Shailoth Leha’chacham [responsum based on a series of twelve philosophical questions addressed to him by Saul Ha’kohen Aschkenazi]. FIRST EDITION. Venice, Giovanni di Gara, 1574. * Manuscript: MOSES BEN MAIMON (MAIMONIDES/ RaMBa”M). Miloth Ha’higayon [introduction to Logic, with two anonymous commentaries]. Copied after second edition. (Venice, Daniel Adelkind for Giustiniani, 1550). Scribe: Joseph Samuel b. Jeshurun Chai Pinto. Corfu, 1764. * KALONYMUS BEN KALONYMUS. Even Bochen [“The Touch Stone”- ethical treatise]. Second Edition. Venice, Daniel Bomberg, 1546. * GERONDI, JONAH BEN ABRAHAM. (“Rabbeinu Yonah”). Sha’arei Teshuvah [“The Gates of Repentance,” ethics]. FIRST EDITION. With: HAI BEN SHERIRA (Gaon of Pumbeditha). (Attributed to). Mussar Ha’sechel Be’melitzah [ethical poems]. Fano, Gershon Soncino, 1504. Together, four works in one volume.

A GROUP OF EARLY EDITIONS OF IMPORTANT WORKS OF ETHICAL LITERATURE. RABBEINU YONAH’S SHA’AREI TESHUVAH IS OUT STANDING AMONG THEM AS THE FIRST EDITION OF THE EARLIEST WORK OF ETHICAL LITERATURE.
Sold for: $35,650.

Lot 3:
ARAMA, ISAAC. Akeidath Yitzchak [philosophical and allegorical sermons on the Pentateuch]. FIRST EDITION. Salonika, Don Judah Gedaliah, Joseph de Crasto & Eliezer de Arles for Solomon ibn Yakar, 1522.

First edition of a fundamental work of Jewish homiletics. Very seldom found complete.
Sold for: $34,500.

Lot 4:
BIBAGO, ABRAHAM BEN SHEM-TOV. Derech Emunah [“Path of Faith”- philosophy]. FIRST EDITION. This Copy With Rare Title Page. Constantinople, n.p., 1521.

A philosophical treatise on the principal tenents of Judaism by the Spanish rationalist philosopher.
Sold for: $11,500.

Lot 5:
(BIBLE, Hebrew. LATER PROPHETS). With the commentary of DAVID BEN JOSEPH KIMCHI. Pesaro, Sons of Greshom Soncino, 1515-16.
Sold for: $28,750.

Lot 7:
ISAAC IBN SAHULA. Mashal Hakadmoni [“Proverb of the Ancient”]. Third edition. Eighty unusual woodcut illustrations. Venice, Meir Parenzo, circa 1547.

“The illustrated Hebrew book par excellence.” Rare Venetian edition of a collection of allegories, fables and puns with moral inferences all written in rhymed prose.
Sold for: $69,000.

Lot 8:
(LITURGY). Machzor Kephi Minhag Roma. According to Italian rite. With Kimcha De’avishona by Yochanan Treves, and commentaries by Ovadiah Sforno and Maimonides. Includes the Ethics of the Fathers. Bologna, Menachem ben Abraham of Modena & Partners, 1540.

Includes the first edition of Treves’ commentary elucidating the subject matter of the prayers and the meaning and derivation of phrases.
Sold for: $6900.

Lot 9:
(MIDRASH). Midrash Chamesh Megiloth [aggadic complilation on the Five Scrolls]. FIRST EDITION. With rare half-title. Pesaro, Greshom Soncino, 1519.

The collection of Aggadic material on the Five Scrolls are part of the Midrash Rabbah genus of midrashic literature - denominatied “large” (Rabbah) to distinguish them from the smaller collections on these Biblical Books.
Sold for: $33,350.

Lot 10:
(MISHNAH). With commentary by Moses Maimonides (RaMBa”M). Six parts in two volumes. Naples, Joshua Solomon ben Israel Nathan Soncino and Joseph ibn Pisa, 8th May 1492.

The first complete printed edition of the Mishnah. The only incunable edition of the Mishnah to survive in its entirety.
Sold for: $40,250.

Lot 11:
MOSES BEN MAIMON (MAIMONIDES/ RaMBa”M). Mishneh Torah (Yad Ha’chazaka). [“The Strong Hand”- Rabbinic code]. Second Incunable Edition. Soncino, Gershom ben Moses Soncino, 23rd March, 1490.

AN ELEGANT EARLY EDITION OF THE MOST IMPORTANT OF MEDIEVAL HALACHIC TEXTS.
Sold for: $78,200.

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MANUSCRIPTS:

Lot 12:
(SOLOMON YITZCHAKI, RASH”I). (b.Troyes, France 1040; d. Troyes, France 1105 [29 Tammuz 4865]). Commentary to the Pentateuch. Hebrew Manuscript on vellum. Scribe: Menachem b. Yitzchak of Salmona written for his relative Moshe b. Yaakov "Rav Paalim Mekabtziel." La Matrice(?), 1457.

Predates The First Published Rashi Edition By Approximately 18 Years. with interesting and obviously correct readings and textual variants.
Sold for: $434,000.

Lot 14:
(LITURGY). Machzor [prayers for the festival of Tabernacles]. According to Romanian rite. Hebrew Manuscript on Vellum. Scribe unknown. Balkans, 15th Century.

Prayers according to the esoteric Greek Romanian (Romaniot) rite. Not to be confused with Rumania, but a rite stemming from the Byzantine Empire. This Machzor contains an extremely rare, excellent running commentary on many of the intricate and different Piyutim.
Sold for: $23,000.

Lot 15:
(LITURGY). Selichoth [penitential prayers]. According to Romanian rite. Hebrew Manuscript on Vellum. Balkans, 15th Century.

An unusually rich collection of piyutim from various countries, wtih compositions of many paytanim extant only in this manuscript.
Sold for: $42,550.

Lot 16:
(LITURGY). Siddur [prayers for the entire year]. According to Sephardic rite. Hebrew MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM. Miniature (2½ x 3½ inches). Spain/France, 15th Century.

An elegant manuscript compendium of prayers according to Sephardic rite.
Sold for: $48,300.

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