Kestenbaum Judaica Auction, Books & Autographs

Kestenbaum & Company’s Fall auction of Fine Judaica will take place on Wednesday, October 27th at 1pm at the firm’s Manhattan gallery located at 242 West 30th Street. Viewing beforehand will be held from Sunday, October 24th through Tuesday, October 26th. The extensive sale of Hebrew Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters and Graphic Art will include American-Judaica and Rare Books from the Library of Gratz College, Elkins Park (Part II); German, Haskallah and Related Books from the Library of the Late Philosopher, Prof. Steven Schwarzschild and Exceptional Rabbinic Autograph Letters from a Private Collector.

Hebrew Incunabula are particularly coveted by discerning book collectors and this auction offers a number of them for sale. Most compelling are several leaves from the first publication of the Talmudic Tractate Kidushin, Guadalajara, circa 1480, at an estimate of $35,000-50,000. This early Spanish fragment is of the utmost rarity (lot 279). Two other incunabula of note include a 1484 copy of Yedai’ah Bedersi’s Bechinath Olam, estimate $10,000-15,000 (lot 53) and a scarce second edition (incomplete) of the Soncino Roman Machzor, 1486, at an estimate of $10,000-12,000 (lot 210A).

Additional important early Hebrew Printed Books include two works by Samson ben Isaac of Chinon -- Sepher Kerithoth, estimate $6,000-8,000 (lot 261) and  Peirush HaGet, estimate $3,000-5,000 (lot 262) both were printed in Constantinople in 1515. Good examples of Early Bibles in the sale include the first Polyglot Bible, Genoa, 1516, estimate $4,000-6,000 (lot 55) and Estienne’s splendidly printed pocket Hebrew Bible, bound in 14 volumes, Paris, 1543-46, at an estimate of $4,000-6,000 (lot 56). A later Bible of significance is a Hebrew Pentateuch from Vienna, 1815, government-authorized for use in the Courts of Law of Prague to administer the Oath to Jewish witnesses, estimate $2,500-3,500 (lot 64).

Highlights among the Passover Hagadoth in the sale include a copy of the second Amsterdam Hagadah with a large folding map of the Holy Land, 1712, estimate $4,000-6,000 (lot 141); a most unusual Hagadah printed in English by the London Times newspaper on August 17th, 1840 in relation to the Blood Libel raised against the Jews during the “Damascus Affair”, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 143) and the Toulouse Hagadah, produced from memory by Jews imprisoned in French internment camps during the Second World War, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 154).

Other notable volumes include two Chassidic books related to the Chabad movement, both  written by Shneur Zalman of Liadi- - Likutei Amarim (second edition), Zolkiew, 1799, estimate $8,000-10,000 (lot 80) and  Likutei Torah (first edition), Zhitomir, 1848 and 1851, estimate $3,000-5,000 (lot 83). Liturgical books include a Machzor according to the custom of Catalonia, printed in Salonika, 1526, estimate $2,000-3,000 (lot 211) and a Machzor, Amschel Mayer Rothschild’s personal copy, Roedelheim, 1800, at an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (lot 258).

Early medical and scientific books are represented by first editions of Tobias Cohn’s Ma’aseh Tuvia from Venice 1707,  estimate $2,500-3,500 (lot 88) and Joseph Solomon Delmedigo’s Sepher Ma’ayan Ganim, Amsterdam, 1629, at an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (lot 98).

Among books relating to Germany and the early Haskallah movement, of particular interest is Johann Jakob Schudt’s Jüdischer Merckwürdigkeiten which chronicles the life of the Jews of Frankfurt, 1714, estimate $1,500-2,500 (lot 126) and the first German edition of the Mishnah, 1760-63, at an estimate of $700-1,000 (lot 236).

The American Judaica section of the sale features unique selections such as a handwritten Hebrew Marriage Certificate dated July 1861 from Peoria, Illinois, estimate $12,000-18,000 (lot 21). Also prominent within the Americana section are a number of “firsts”: Isaac Leeser’s Hebrew-English Pentateuch, the Yuly copy bound in five volumes, Philadelphia, 1845-6; the first such translation  published in America, estimate $7,000-9,000 (lot 12); Judah Monis’ Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue, the first Hebrew Grammar published in the New World, Boston, 1735, estimate $10,000-15,000 (lot 7); a volume of The Jew, edited by Solomon Henry Jackson, distinguished for being the first Jewish Periodical in America, New York, 1823-4, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 11); and The American Magazine for June 1758, containing a Rabbinic sermon in English, the very first such text published in America, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 8).

Books relating to Israel and Zionism include two significant editions of Theodor Herzl’s important manifesto, Der Judenstaat: The first Hebrew edition, Warsaw, 1896, estimate $2,000-3,000 (lot 285) and the first edition to be printed in America, New York, 1904, at an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (lot 286). Further offerings include an early and fascinating Palestine Telephone Directory from 1938, estimate $1,000-1,500 (lot 188) and the first edition of Charles Forster’s study of Hebrew inscriptions found in the Sinai Desert and published with albumen photographs, London, 1862, at an estimate of $800-1,200 (lot 186).

Other books of note include the first edition of Baruch de Spinoza’s highly influential philosophical work Opera Posthuma, Amsterdam, 1677, estimate $6,000-9,000 (lot 278); Bernard Picart’s illustrated Histoire Générale des Cérémonies, Moeurs, et Coutumes Religieuses de tous les Peuples du Monde, complete in seven volumes, Paris, 1741, estimate $3,000-5,000 (lot 306) and a Hebrew translation of William Shakespeare’s Othello, which was the first appearance of any of Shakespeare’s plays in the Hebrew language, Vienna, 1874, at an estimate of $600-900 (lot 267).

Prominent among the Modern Art and Literary Books is a rare complete set of the short-lived journal Albatros, which had enormous impact upon the modernist Yiddish literary scene in Poland, estimate $1,500-2,500 (lot 139) and Marc Chagall’s illustrations for the Yiddish language art journal Chaliastra, Paris, 1924 at an estimate of $800-1,200 (lot 294). Many illustrated books are featured in the auction including those by: Meir Gur-Arye, E. M. Lilien, Moritz Oppenheim, Ze’ev Raban, Reuven Rubin, Issachar ber Ryback, Raphael Soyer, Joseph Tchaikov, Anna Ticho and Wilhelm Wachtel.

Leading the offerings in the Manuscripts Section of the sale is a large Prayerbook according to the meditations of Rabbi Isaac Luria, 1732-38, at an estimate of $20,000-25,000 (lot 352). The auction catalogue cover lot, a striking Family Tree from Vilna, begun in 1901, is extraordinary for its elaborate and most original artistry. The pre-sale estimate is $15,000-20,000 (lot 349). Additional highlights are Moreh Tzedek an extensive manuscript penned in the 18th century by the Sha’agath Aryeh’s first cousin, estimate $10,000-12,000 (lot 362), a collection of Hebrew medieval manuscript fragments, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 357) and a Pinkas from the legendary Churvah Synagogue, Jerusalem, 1889-96, at an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (lot 351).

The Autograph Letters section of the sale is particularly impressive and is sure to garner buyers’ attention. Consigned from a single Private Collection, on offer are written communications by some of the most important and influential Rabbinic authorities of the 19th and 20th centuries. Included are letters penned by Israel Abu-Hatze’ira (the Babi Sali), Abraham Mordechai Alter (the Grand Rabbi of Gur), Moshe Yitzchak Gewirtzman (Reb Itzikel), Shlomo Goldman (Reb Shloimkeh Zeviller), Samson Raphael Hirsch, Abraham Isaiah Karelitz (the Chazon Ish), Moses Sofer (the Chatham Sofer) and Yoel Teitelbaum (the Satmar Rebbe) among others. Of special note are letters by Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin (the Chofetz Chaim), estimate $15,000-20,000 (lot 332), Menachem Mendel of Shklov, estimate $25,000-35,000 (lot 337) and Reb Chaim Soloveitchik, estimate $12,000-18,000 (lot 342), a most surprising letter written to Chief Rabbi Kook.

A petite section of Graphic Art rounds out the sale. It includes a particularly striking gouache from the Book of Esther by Saul Raskin, estimate $3,000-4,000 (lot 363).

For  further  information  relating  to  bidding  or  any  other  queries,  please  contact Jackie  Insel at  212-366-1197.
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