Auctions | March 9, 2015

First Complete Jewish Prayer-Book Printed in the New World at Kestenbaum & Company, March 19

Kestenbaum & Company’s forthcoming auction of Fine Judaica will take place on Thursday, March 19th at 3:00 pm in the company’s gallery in New York City. The 352-lot auction will feature a Collection of Holy Land Maps offered from a private collection in London, Judaic art from the Estate of the late Rabbi & Mrs. Abraham Karp and exceptional offerings of American-Judaica. 

The star lot of the auction is one of particular rarity: The first complete Jewish Prayer-Book printed in the New World--New York, 1766. Written according to the order of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews and translated into English by Isaac Pinto, this scarce first edition, first issue, seldom seen at auction, is one of the singular, most important printed books of Jewish Americana. The pre-auction estimate is $100,000-150,000 (Lot 8).

Another highly significant American lot is the complete monthly (and partial weekly) run of Isaac Leeser’s The Occident, the first successful periodical recording Jewish life in America in the middle decades of the 19th century. This set of 26 volumes, printed in Philadelphia, from 1843-1869, is magnificently bound and estimated at $100,000-150,000 (Lots 18 and 19). 

Standout selections in the American-Judaica section of the auction continue with many literary themed pamphlets most all of which have never appeared at auction until now.  Eulogy in Commemoration of the Deceased Poetess Mina Kleeberg, New Haven, 1879, estimate $3,000-5,000 (Lot 38) and Isaac Mayer Wise’s essay on the Temperance Question, Cincinnati (1880’s), estimate $1,000-1,500 (Lot 39) are two good examples. 

Further American lots of interest include:

  • A group of most unusual trade weeklies issued for the kosher meat and poultry industry in New York, 1935-1946, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 57) 
  • A scarce complete run of Der Yidisher Farmer, a short-lived Yiddish journal for Jewish agriculturalists newly arrived in America, New York 1891-92, estimate $6,000-8,000 (Lot 52) 
  • Palestine for the Jews, likely the first official request to an American president for a Jewish homeland, Oak Park, 1891, estimate $4,000-6,000 (Lot 49). 
  • Several rare mid-19th century Jewish pamphlets printed in the Caribbean Basin.

Foremost among important Hebrew Printed Books offered in the sale is a most appealing Book of Psalms printed entirely on vellum and beautifully bound, Amsterdam, 1778, at an estimate of $60,000-70,000 (Lot 68). Also certain to generate tremendous interest is a Prague, 1602 edition of The Tosfos Yom-Tov’s Tzurath Beith HaMikdash He’Athid, a unique copy appended with an entirely unrecorded engraved diagram of the future Temple in Jerusalem, estimate $40,000-60,000 (Lot 125); and four Hebrew leaves from Spain of the utmost rarity, fragments from the very first edition of Talmud Tractate Kidushin, Guadalajara, circa 1480-82, at an estimate of $20,000-30,000 (Lot 181). 

Further Printed Book highlights include:

  • Imperio de Dios, an exceedingly rare and controversial work by the Marrano poet, Miguel Daniel Levi de Barrios, Brussels, c. 1689, in which he presents a Messianic vision of the future, estimate $40,000-60,000 (Lot 61).
  • The first edition of the Koran in Hebrew, Leipzig, 1857, estimate $3,000-5,000 (Lot 134)
  • The first Hebrew edition of Albert Einstein’s revolutionary text, The General Theory of Relativity, Tel Aviv, 1928, estimate $1,000-1,500 (Lot 98)
  • Le Livre de la Splendeur, Jean de Pauly’s first French translation of the Zohar, Gershom Scholem’s personal copy with his annotations throughout, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 166)
  • Evigingo, Vilna, 1936, a slim 16-page petite pamphlet by the surrealist Yiddish poet Leyzer Volf (pseud.), most unusually written in Latin characters only. Seemingly, the only surviving copy, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 185)
  • A varied selection of Passover Hagadahs, 17th - 20th centuries.

Headlining the Manuscripts section of the sale are four important manuscripts from the collection of, and relating to the brilliant Yemenite scholar Rabbi Yosef Kafah and his grandfather Rabbi Yichya Kafah, including the latter’s Milchamoth Hashem, the author’s scathing attack against Kabbalah, written in Yemen in 1932, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 217). Additionally offered for sale is a portion of Part III of Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed (Moreh Nevuchim), Yemen, early 14th century, $15,000-20,000 (Lot 225); a beautifully executed extensive “Tachlal” prayer-book composed according to Yemenite custom, written in 1618, estimate $12,000-15,000 (Lot 223); and Maimonides’ Sefer Nashim written in Yemen, circa 1500, estimate $12,000-18,000 (Lot 224). 

Additional noteworthy manuscript selections include:

  • A finely engraved, hand-colored Scroll of Esther, Amsterdam, c. 1720, estimate $15,000-18,000 (Lot 228)
  • An autograph letter written in Hebrew by Moses Mendelssohn, Berlin, 1778, estimate $5,000-8,000 (Lot 232)
  • The earliest recorded illuminated Hebrew Marriage Contract from Georgia, Kolkash, 1849, estimate $7,000-9,000 (Lot 221)
  • A fascinating anonymous, unpublished Spanish manuscript on the Jewish Messianic redemption and anti-Christian polemic, 1723, estimate $20,000-30,000. (Lot 247).
  • Autograph letters relating to prominent Rabbinic figures including: Rabbis Akiva Eger, Moshe Feinstein, The Rogotchover Gaon, Yaakov David Ridvaz, Shmuel Salant, Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, Yeshayah of Kerestir and the recently deceased Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg.

The section of Holy Land Maps is tremendous. Prominent selections include the Burchardus-de Schass extraordinary map from the dawn of Holy Land cartography, Lyons, 1491, estimate $12,000-18,000 (Lot 257); Jansson & Horn’s monumental hand-colored map in six parts, Amsterdam, 1658, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 265), Ptolemy- Waldseemuller’s Tabula Moderna Terre Sancete, Ulm, 1482, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 274) and their Quarta Asie, Ulm, 1482, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 275).

Of interest in the Graphics section is Karl Witkowski’s oil Portrait of a Rabbi, estimate $8,000-10,000 (Lot 291) and two examples of Judaic verre églomisé art, Austria, c. 1920 (Lots 289 and 290). 

Within the Ceremonial Objects section of the sale, of particular note is a uniquely large hand-chased silver and gold Chanukah Menorah by Shuki Freiman, estimate $20,000-30,000 (Lot 331) and a lavish Austro-Hungarian silver Pidyon Haben plate, Lvov, 1847, at an estimate of $10,000-15,000 (Lot 330). 

The auction exhibition will be held in the Kestenbaum & Company gallery at 242 West 30th Street in New York City from Sunday, March 15th through Wednesday, March 18th. For further information, to request images, or for any other queries, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197 or