Auctions | June 18, 2015

Kestenbaum & Co. To Offer A Singular Collection of Early Printed Hebrew Books, Biblical & Rabbinic Manuscripts

Kestenbaum & Company’s forthcoming auction of Fine Judaica will take place on Thursday, June 25th at 3:00 pm in the company’s gallery in New York City. Although by lot count this particular auction will be smaller in size than the norm, a great deal of time was spent on researching and preparing for sale the 130 initial lots of this auction that stem from a single source that we shall refer to as a most Singular Collection. Specialist consultant Rabbi Dovid Kamenetsky was brought from Jerusalem to New York to assist in preparing this exceptional catalogue. 

The Singular Collection is divided into two sections. The first fifty-six lots represent outstanding Hebrew manuscripts pertaining to Rabbinics, Kabbalah, Liturgy, Talmud, etc. Almost one-third of these medieval and pre-modern Hebraic manuscripts are unpublished.

Significant lots include:

  • Two 13th century Hebrew Bibles: the Book of Psalms, estimate $15,000-20,000 (Lots 8) and the Book of Genesis, estimate $25,000-35,000 (Lot 9)
  • Passover Hagadah manuscript on vellum. Byzantine, 14th-15th century. Estimate $30,000-50,000 (Lot 25)
  • Pinkas Ledger of the Rabbinic Court of Ungvar, 1850-69. Including autographed entries by the Maharam Asch, his son R. Menachem Eisenstadt, R. Shlomo Ganzfreid and many other important rabbinic figures. Estimate: $20,000-25,000  (Lot 26)
  • Isaac Meir of Duran’s Sha’rei Dura. Manuscript in Hebrew on vellum. Germany, 15th century. Estimate $12,000-18,000 (Lot 29)
  • Igroth Shada’r, a collection of almost 120 letters all signed by the most prominent leaders of the Old Yishuv including R. Chaim of Pinsk, R. Israel of Shklov, R. Nathan Nota ben R. Menachem Mendel. Jerusalem, 1830. Estimate $20,000-25,000 (Lot 30)
  • Maimonides’ Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the Perplexed). Venice, 1551, this copy with extensive scholarly marginalia taken from the Moreh Nevuchim of R. Moses Isserles (the Rem’a), plus additional notes in the name of R. Mordechai Jaffe (the Levush). Estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 33)
  • Solomon Adani’s autograph manuscript of his fundamental commentary to the Mishnah, Melecheth Shlomo. Hebron, 1589-1623. Estimate $30,000-50,000 (Lot 38)
  • Shir Geulah. Hebrew manuscript on vellum commemorating the return to Jewish hands of the Golden Rose Synagogue of Lemberg (Lvov), 1609. Estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 52)
  • Other Hebrew manuscripts included in this Singular Collection are those composed by: Chaim Joseph David Azulai, Abraham ben Yom Tov Bondi, Akiva ben Moses Eger, Abraham ben HaGr’a, Jacob Emden, Menashe of Ilya, Raphael Immanuel Chai Ricchi, Joseph David Sintzheim and Yoseph ben Moshe Trani (the Mahari’t).

The second section of the Singular Collection features just under seventy lots of stellar Early Hebrew Printed Books including:

  • Isaac Alfasi’s (Ri’f) Sepher Halachoth. Constantinople, 1509. Estimate $15,000-20,000 (Lot 60)
  • The first Biblia Rabbinica, printed by Daniel Bomberg in Venice, 1517, a complete three-volume set. Estimate $40,000-60,000 (Lot 67)
  • Isaac ibn Sahula’s illustrated book of fables Mashal Hakadmoni. Venice, 1547. Estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 81)
  • Maimonides’ Sepher HaMitzvoth. Constantinople, 1510. Estimate $15,000-20,000 (Lot 97)

After the initial 130 lots, the remainder of the sale, offered from various consignors, includes other books and manuscripts, as well as graphic art and ceremonial objects. 

Some noteworthy manuscript selections include: 

  • Barry S. Gourary’s personal archive of legal papers, documents and video depositions relating to his historic civil lawsuit brought against the Chabad Movement, 1985-86. Estimate $6,000-9,000 (Lot 170)
  • Moses Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. France, c. 1370. Two large vellum leaves. Estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 171)
  • An important and extensive archive of c. 1,200 documents relating to the Hebron Massacre of August 1929. Estimate $30,000-50,000 (Lot 172)
  • A magnificent illuminated Hebrew manuscript commissioned to commemorate the appointment of the United Kingdom’s first High Commissioner to Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel. Jerusalem, 1920. Estimate $20,000-30,000 (Lot 151)

Prominently consigned to the Graphic Art section of the auction is material that stems from the Rowe Bookplate Museum, Greenwich, Conn. Also included in this section is an eclectic collection of posters relating to World War II, the Holocaust and early State of Israel.

Fine examples within the section of Ceremonial Objects include a Hester Bateman Georgian silver Torah Pointer, London 1778, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 207) and a medal of Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi, “the first unequivocal Jewish medal with a Hebrew Legend,” Ferrara, 1558, at a pre-sale estimate of $2,000-3,000 (Lot 211).

The auction exhibition will be held in the Kestenbaum & Company gallery at 242 West 30th Street in New York City from Sunday, June 21st through Wednesday, June 24th. For further information, to request images, or for any other queries, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197 or