Auctions | November 28, 2011

Kestenbaum's December Sale of Fine Judaica

Kestenbaum & Company will conduct an auction of Fine Judaica on Thursday, December 8 at 3:00 pm. The sale will be held at the company’s gallery at 242 West 30 Street in New York City. Buyers will be afforded an opportunity to select from an extensive selection of Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters & Graphic Art. Featured in the sale will also be Rare Books from Jews’ College Library, London.

The Americana section of the sale boasts an item of great significance in the history of American Jewry: Speeches on the Jew Bill in the House of Delegates in Maryland, 1829.  This important text gave Jews residing in that state full civil rights that had up until that point been denied them. The pre-auction estimate is $15,000-20,000 (Lot 16). Further lots of interest include the very first publication of the American Union for Reform Judaism, Cincinnati, 1873, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 25); an Address on the Death of Abraham Lincoln given by prominent Philadelphia Rabbi Sabato Morais displaying the grief that Jews shared upon the president’s assassination, Philadelphia, 1865, estimate: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 26) and a printed invitation addressed to Rabbi Morais from then President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes to meet with him, Philadelphia, circa 1877, at an estimate of $2,000-2,500 (Lot 24). An important autograph letter, signed by Union Major General Benjamin F. Butler, portrays the Military Governor of New Orleans’ notorious anti-Semitism, dated October 23, 1862, estimate $6,000-9,000 (Lot 253).

Among the books of Hebraica being offered, the star lot is an excellent copy of Masecheth Bava Bathra, one of the most scarce and important tractates of Bomberg’s celebrated Talmud edition, Venice, 1521 at a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-120,000 (Lot 226). Further significant lots include a first edition, in very fine condition, of the Shela’h Siddur, Amsterdam, 1717, estimate $35,000-40,000 (Lot 175); an important Bible edition, Derech Ha’kodesh, prepared by Elias Hutter, Hamburg, 1587, estimate $5.000-7,000 (Lot 49) and a first edition of Tobias Cohn’s comprehensive illustrated Hebrew scientific encyclopedia, Ma’aseh Tuvia, Venice 1707-8 at an estimate of 3,000-5,000 (Lot 83). Other categories of Hebrew books include Kabbalistic texts and a number of important printed Chassidic books such as the first Tanya printed in America with manuscript corrections in the hand of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Brooklyn, 1953, at an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (Lot 77).

Notable selections among the Passover Hagadahs include the first Reform Hagadah, London, 1842, estimate $4,000-5,000 (Lot 113) and a Hagadah in Judeo-Tatar, Piotrkow, 1904, at an estimate of $1,500-2,000 (Lot 115). A mint copy of the celebrated David Moss Hagadah, Verona, 1987, one of 500 numbered copies, is also up for auction.  This beautifully designed book is truly a phenomenal bibliophilic achievement. The estimate is $12,000-15,000 (lot 126).

The Printed Books section spans the globe with a diverse range of texts relating to the socio-economic status of Jews in England, Australia, India, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, France and Asia. Of special interest is a highly unusual volume printed from wood-blocks on rice paper entitled Facsimiles of the Hebrew Manuscripts Obtained at the Jewish Synagogue in K’ae-Fung Foo, Shanghai, 1851, estimated at $8,000-10,000 (Lot 80). Also of note is an exotic Judaic school textbook printed in 1915 in Beru, located in the Pacific Islands, and composed in the Gilbertese language, estimated at $1,000-1,500 (Lot 199). The section also includes notable books relating to the Jews in Syria, Libya, Persia and Baghdad.

An important highlight among other historic books is the second edition of Confusión de Confusiones, by Joseph Penso de la Vega, one of the foremost writers and thinkers among the Spanish and Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam, in which he theorizes, describes and defines the operations of the Stock Market, Breslau, 1919, estimate $1,500-2,000 (Lot 202). A singular Zionist item issued immediately following the Balfour Declaration is a Programme of a Jewish Demonstration to Thank His Majesty’s Government for Their Declaration in Favour of the Establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People, London, 1917, at an estimate of $1.000-1,500 (Lot 237). Other Zionist books include the first American edition of Theodor Herzl’s Der Judenstaat-The Jewish State, New York, 1904, estimate $2,000-3,000 (Lot 235), as well as the first American Yiddish edition, Der Idenshtat, New York, 1917, estimate $1,200-1,800 (Lot 236). Holy Land related texts include Plate Books such as Willem & David Goeree’s Mosaize Historie der Hebreeuwse Kerke, an attractive four volume set of a study of Jewish antiquities, Amsterdam, 1700, estimate $3,000-5,000 (Lot 107); Dutch traveller and painter Cornelis de Bruyn’s Reizen… Delft, 1698, estimate 2,000-3,000 (Lot 152) and Views in Palestine from the Original Drawings of Luigi Mayer, London, 1804, at an estimate of $4,000-5,000 (Lot 153).

Within the Manuscripts section of the auction, a highly attractive festival Prayer-Book according to the custom of Avignon, 1689, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 268) is featured. Other noteworthy highlights include a group of medieval Hebrew illuminated manuscript fragments from the Workshop of the Lisbon Bible, late fifteenth century, estimate $12,000-18,000 (Lot 301); a manuscript dated 1750 listing those Jews privileged by King Frederick II of Prussia with the right to reside in Berlin, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 269) and a Judeo Persian manuscript of the Ethics of the Fathers, Persia, 1913-1924, estimate $3,000-4,000 (Lot 288).  The section also includes eye-catching illuminated Ketubot from Bulgaria and Italy.

Autograph Letters by illustrious Jewish spiritual leaders include missives by Maharam Schick, The Komarner, Reb Chaim Brisker, The Grand Rabbis of the Vishnitz Chassidic dynasty, The Yenukah of Stolin, Rabbis Aaron Kotler and Moshe Feinstein. One standout lot is an important letter from R. Moses Sofer, the “Chatham Sofer” which includes a response to a Halachic question concerning inheritance matters, Pressburg, 1834, at an estimate of $45,000-50,000 (Lot 311).

The catalogue cover lot is an extraordinary illuminated manuscript composed on a large vellum sheet, depicting King Nebuchadnezzar's dream from the Book of Daniel and explaining it in exhaustive detail in Hebrew. The King's vision is a revelation of the future history of the world and of events that must precede the dawn of the Messianic Age. No other Jewish depiction of this biblical key to world history is known. The pre-auction estimate is $20,000-30,000 (Lot 322).

A number of fine paintings round out the sale including an Austrian landscape by Isidor Kaufmann (Lot 334); a poignant painting of a Sabbath Eve scene by Marcin Gottlieb, younger brother of the celebrated Maurycy (Lot 333); a pen and ink drawing of Charlie Chaplin by Marc Chagall dated 1929 (Lot 331), and drawings by Issacher Ryback (Lots 337 & 338). Other art (including illustrated books) sure to garner interest include works by Ilya Schor, Saul Raskin, Mane-Katz, Herman Struck, Max Spilhaczek, Ze’ev Raban, Arthur Szyk, Imre Amos, Otto Eichinger and Abraham Rattner. The sale concludes with a fine photograph by Roman Vischniac.

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