Iberian Judaica Auction

Iberian Judaica from the distinguished collections of the late Alfonso Cassuto of Lisbon, Portugal highlights Kestenbaum & Company's February 24 auction of fine Judaica

Kestenbaum & Company’s sale of Fine Judaica to be held on Thursday, February 24, at 3:00pm will mark the company’s Fiftieth Auction since its establishment in 1996. With an exclusive commitment to the field of Fine Judaica, Kestenbaum has over the past fifteen years offered some 17,000 lots comprising an immense quantity of Judaic properties. Highlighting this Jubilee auction, will be the historic Cassuto Collection of Iberian-related Books and Manuscripts, alongside which, this extensive sale will feature Rare Hebrew Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Graphic & Ceremonial Art.

The foundation of the Alfonso Cassuto Collection was laid by Mr. Cassuto’s great-grandfather Jehuda de Mordehai Cassuto who in 1835 acquired a sizeable library assembled in the seventeenth century by the Namias Family of Hamburg.

Subsequent generations of the family greatly expanded the library and Alfonso in particular immersed himself enthusiastically in the books and the library’s further development.  The present collection was consigned to Kestenbaum & Company by Alfonso’s son, the distinguished composer and conductor Álvaro Leon Cassuto, Artistic Director of the Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra.

The Collection of Iberian-Judaica features theological, historical and liturgical texts as well as books and manuscripts relating to the Inquisition, literature, science and medicine. Important lots within the collection include a handsome manuscript by Isaac Orobio de Castro, Prevenciones Divinas contra la vana ydolatria de las gentes, Amsterdam, circa 1700, estimate $25,000-30,000 (lot 332) and three highly significant works bound in one volume by the celebrated mathematician and cartographer, Pedro Nunes, including his De Arte Atque Ratione Navigandi, 1573, at an estimate of $20,000-25,000 (lot 331). Further highlights include Isaac da Fonseca Aboab’s Parafrasis Comentado Sobre el Pentateuco with the rare frontispiece portrait, Amsterdam, 1681, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 264); Flor de Apolo, a sumptuous edition of collected poetry by one of the most celebrated seventeenth century Marrano poets, Miguel de Barrios, Brussels, 1665, estimate $6,000-8,000 (lot 280); Joseph Penso de la Vega’s Rumbos Peligrosos, Antwerp, 1683, estimate $4,000-6,000 (lot 286) and Luis de Granada’s Introduction del Symbolo de la Fe, Salamanca, 1584-85, estimate $4,000-6,000 (lot 290). Also featured are medical texts by noted Marrano physicians such as Elijah Montalto (lot 322), Amatus Lusitanus (lot 317) and Rodrigo de Castro (lot 320).

Elsewhere in the 420-plus lot auction is a broad range of categories including Incunabula, Liturgy, Chassidic and Kabbalistic texts, Bibles, Passover Hagadahs, American and Anglo Judaic imprints, Anti-Semitic and Holocaust-related materials. Illustrated Books in the auction feature works by Max Liebermann, El Lissitzky, Reuven Rubin and Issachar Ber Ryback. Other sections include a significant collection of Autograph Letters, Graphic Art, a single-owner collection of Fine Photography and Ceremonial Art.

Incunabula in the auction include Joseph Albo’s classic text of Jewish philosophy-Sepher Ha’Ikarim, Soncino, 1485, estimate $25,000-35,000 (lot 7); a wide-margined copy of David ben Joseph Abudraham’s commentary to the prayers, the second book printed in Lisbon, 1489, estimate $20,000-30,000 (lot 265) and Alphonso de Spina’s Fortalitium Fidei, Nürnberg, 1485, estimate $ 6,000-9,000 (lot 340). An important post-incunable is a crisp set of Daniel Bomberg’s Biblia Rabbinica, presented here in four volumes in a fine, uniform contemporary binding, Venice, 1524-5, at an estimate of $50,000-70,000 (lot 53).

Among the Chassidic Books, the rarest is undoubtedly an extraordinarily fine copy of Schneur Zalman of Liadi’s Sepher Likutei Amarim, the fundamental exposition of Chabad Chassidic philosophy, Slavuta, 1796, at a pre-auction estimate of $100,000-120,000 (lot 71). Other notable Chassidic texts in the sale include a scarce copy of Schneur Zalman of Liadi’s first edition of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim), Kopyst, 1816, estimate $8,000-10,000 (lot 74) and the first anthology of the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, Kether Shem Tov, two parts bound in one, Zolkiew, 1794, at an estimate of $7,000-10,000 (lot 70).

A sizeable selection of Passover Hagadahs includes many fine examples such as Arthur Szyk’s opulently illlustrated Hagadah printed entirely on vellum (one of 125 numbered copies), London 1939-40, estimate $30,000-40,000 (lot 132); a beautifully designed Hagadah by Albert Daniel Rutherston rarely seen at auction (one of 100 copies printed on handmade paper), London, 1930, estimate $7,000-9,000 (lot 131); a copy of the celebrated Amsterdam Hagadah, 1695, estimate $4,000-6,000 (lot 123) and a deluxe, large-paper-copy of Jakob Steinhardt’s artistic Hagadah, Berlin, 1921, at an estimate of $3,000-5,000 (lot 129).

The Autograph Letters section of the sale boasts an impressive selection of written correspondences by prominent Rabbinic thinkers and Chassidic leaders. Included are letters by the Chofetz Chaim and members of the Halberstam Family. Also on offer is correspondence from the Schneerson Family including letters written from Latvia in 1927 shortly after the family’s expulsion from the Soviet Union. Far and away, the most prominent lot to be auctioned in this section is an immensely rare autograph letter written by the paramount Chassidic leader, Reb Nosson of Breslov. The letter was written by Reb Nosson in 1842 to a close disciple, Reb Meir Mirkis of Teplik, who was ailing at the time, and the missive has remained with the Mirkis family for nearly two centuries. This letter is of singular importance as it contains, at its heart, one of the central philosophies of Breslov Chassiduth: “Joy is the remedy for all sicknesses.” The pre-auction estimate is $40,000-60,000 (lot 237). Another star lot in this section is a group of childhood photographs and autograph letters written by Oskar Schindler, the renowned rescuer of Holocaust-era Jews. The letters were written to Schindler’s first cousin Emily Tyrolt. The pre-sale estimate is $5,000-7,000 (lot 245).

Highlights among the manuscripts include an important autographed pedagogic work by Yitzchak Aryeh Zekel Leib Wormser, the Ba’al Shem of Michelstadt (1768-1847), estimate $15,000-20,000 (lot 255); a bizarre and rather fascinating Kabbalistic manuscript of folk remedies, Eastern Europe, eighteenth century, estimate $1,000-1,500 (lot 257) and a rare illuminated Marriage Contract from the ancient community of Mountain Jews in the region of Azerbaijan, 1867, estimate $1,500-2,500 (lot 353).

The Graphic Art section features paintings by Artur Markowicz, Saul Raskin and Otto Eichinger among others. Of particular interest is a Hebrew Map of the World by Benedictus Arias Montanus, Antwerp, 1571, at an estimate of $700-1,000 (lot 354). A single-owner consignment of Fine Photography notably includes the works of Roman Vishniac (lots 371-373).

The sale concludes with an attractive selection of Ceremonial Art. Fine examples include a seventeenth century Italian Bronze Chanukah Lamp, estimate $15,000-18,000 (lot 380), a pair of Continental silver and silver filigree Torah Finials, circa 1800, estimate $5,000-7,000 (lot 399) and an exceptional Italian embroidered Synagogue textile, dated 1698, at an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (lot 397). Also noteworthy is a varied collection of materials from the Bezalel School of Art (Lots 405-22).

This Jubilee Auction is particularly exciting and we look forward to welcoming a broad range of new clients likely to be drawn to the attractions found in the celebrated Cassuto Collection.

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

Auction Guide