Books, Manuscripts, Letters, Graphic Art and Ceremonial Objects Coming Up at Kestenbaum & Co.

Kestenbaum & Company’s fall auction scheduled for Thursday, November 14th at 3:00 pm will be the company’s Sixtieth auction of Fine Judaica since the firm’s creation in 1996. The sale will feature close to 500 lots consigned by more than 85 vendors from around the globe. Of particular note are books from the Estate of a Chassidic scholar who is represented by an uncommon selection of rare texts many never before offered at auction. Additionally, Kestenbaum’s increased focus on the Jewish Fine Arts is reflected by an especially large offering of Ceremonial Objects and Graphics.

Within the Books category, the section of American Judaica is notably broad with an offering of 30 lots. Of uncommon rarity is the first edition of the first original Reform prayer book issued in the United States, Charleston, 1830, at an estimate of $20,000-30,000 (Lot 20) and a Hebrew Psalter, Cambridge, 1809,  which is the first printing of any part of the Bible in Hebrew in America, at a pre-auction estimate of $10,000-15,000 (Lot 12). Further Americana highlights include Acts of Assembly, passed in the Charibbee Leeward Islands from 1690-1739, which includes the first Acts relating to Jews in the New World, estimate $6,000-9,000 (Lot 9); Die Pessach-Hagada, the first German translation of the Hagadah in America, 1850, estimate $3,000-5,000 (Lot 146) and Aufbau Almanac - The Immigrant’s Handbook, a guide for recently arrived German-Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, New York, 1941, estimated at $200-300 (Lot 37).

Many of the Anglo-Judaic texts offered in the sale derive from a private collection and include 18th and 19th century bibliographically unrecorded Hebrew imprints from London. A strong collection of material from 17th - 18th century Germany relates to the social and economic conditions of Jews in German Lands. Spanning the globe further are books relating to China and Japan that are being offered from the Library of a Rabbinic scholar who spent four decades living in and traveling throughout Asia. 

Outstanding selections among early Hebrew printed books in the sale include the rare second Hebrew edition of Benjamin of Tudela’s Travels, Ferrara, 1555, estimate $20,000-25,000 (Lot 67); Joseph Solomon Delmedigo’s noted scientific book, Sepher Eilim, a very handsome copy, Amsterdam, 1628-29, estimate $12,000-18,000 (Lot 102) and the first printing of Immanuel Benveniste’s esteemed, uncensored edition of the complete Talmud, Amsterdam, 1644-47, at an estimate of $8,000-12,000 (Lot 263). Important Kabbalah related works include the second edition of the Sepher Yetzirah (Prague, 1624), a unique copy, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 190) and the first edition of a most celebrated mystical text, Raziel Hamalach, Amsterdam 1701, at an estimate of $4,000-6,000 (Lot 191).

Of general interest is Henrietta Rothschild’s personal Prayer Book, within a  spectacular custom family binding, Vienna, 1857, at an estimate of $10,000-15,000 (Lot 240), Esther Levy’s Jewish Cookery Book, the first Jewish cookbook published in America, Philadelphia, 1871, estimate $6,000-9,000 (Lot 99) and Wilhelm Marr’s anti-Semitic pamphlet, Der Sieg des Judenthums uber das Germanenthum, Bern, 1879, at an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (Lot 53). Zionist material offered includes a series of first editions of Theodor Herzl’s Der Judenstaat printed in a number of languages including English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Dutch and Portuguese (Lots 280-284). 

Highlighting the Illustrated Books section is Arthur Szyk’s Rewolucja w Niemczech [Revolution in Germany], a scarce first edition of the first work completely illustrated by Szyk, Lodz, 1919, estimated at $2,000-3,000 (Lot 305) and a first edition of Ralph Bergengren’s children’s book, David the Dreamer, illustrated by Tom Seidmann-Freud, Boston, 1922, at an estimate of $500-700 (Lot 288). 

Noteworthy selections in the Manuscripts section of the auction include a Spanish legal document relating to the Kingdom of Navarre and the Jews at the close of the 15th century, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 354), the original Estate Will of respected Rabbi Akiva Eger, Posen, 1837, estimate $8,000-10,000 (Lot 312) and an autograph manuscript by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch underscoring the debate between Orthodoxy and Reform Judaism, Fankfurt am Main, 1855, at an estimate of $6,000-8,000 (Lot 324).

The Autograph Letters section includes correspondences from some of the greatest Rabbis of the 19th and 20th centuries. Featured are letters by Rabbis Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Yehuda Leib Chasman, Baruch Ber Leibowitz, Isser Zalman Meltzer, Shmuel Salant, Meir Shapiro, Shimon Shkop, Chaim Yehuda Leib Tiktinsky and Ovadia Yosef. Further letters are offered by other foremost religious leaders such as: The Leshem, Reb Itzikel, Menachem Mendel Halberstam of Frysztak, The Chofetz Chaim, The Steipler Gaon, Rav Kook, Aryeh Levin-The Tzaddik of Jerusalem, Mordechai Rokeach of Bilgoray, Reb Chaim Brisker, The Brisker Rav and Reb Yeshayah of Kerestir. 

Graphic Art highlights include a large framed color lithograph, signed and numbered by Marc Chagall, Moses and the Tablets of the Law, 1963, at an estimate of $10,000-12,000 (Lot 373), a watercolor and gold leaf work fashioned into a board-game titled The New Game of the Jew, depicting the Jew as a peddler, England, c. 1816, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 362) and a silver gelatin photograph by Bernice Abbott of the Chicken Market at 55 Hester Street in 1937, estimated at $2,500-4,500 (Lot 372). A number of World War II related posters are also featured, the most notable of which is a 1942 poster issued by the Court of Prague sentencing Czech partisans to death following the assassination of Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich, estimate $6,000-9,000 (Lot 368).  Further lots offered are works by artists such as Boris Schatz, Henry Andrew Harper, Lucien Powell, Issachar Ryback, Frederick Warren Freer, Alfred Lakos, Hans Winter, Mane-Katz, Michael Gilbery, Shalom of Safed, Abraham Rattner and Abraham Walkowitz. 

Buyers of Ceremonial Objects will have a broad selection from which to choose with nearly 100 lots of varying price points on offer in the auction. The section opens with seven lots of fine, contemporary silver and gilt Judaic objects designed by Swed of Jerusalem ranging in price from $30,000 down to $1,000 (Lots 400-406).

Further Ceremonial Art offered includes an impressive array of Kiddush Goblets, Chanukah Lamps, Spice Containers, Sabbath Candlesticks, Torah Pointers, Charity Boxes and a number of very fine Bezalel items. Some outstanding lots include:

  • An important English Victorian silver Sabbath goblet, 1868, engraved with the coat-of-arms of Sir Moses Montefiore, estimate $20,000-25,000 (Lot 412) 
  • An Augsburg silver Sabbath goblet, 1761-63, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 413)
  • A German silver Chanukah lamp, Frankfurt, c. 1770, estimate $15,000-18,000 (Lot 417)
  • A Continental Art Deco brass menorah, c. 1920, estimate $4,000-6,000 (Lot 418)
  • A rosewater container, pair of petite Torah finials and a Torah pointer all beautifully fashioned in pure gold, Persia, c. 1940 (Lots 427-429)
  • A German silver Havdalah compendium, Nuremburg, c. 1780, estimate $6,000-8,000 (Lot 441)
  • An important Bezalel silver and ivory Torah pointer, c. 1906, estimate $6,000-8,000   (Lot 462)

The auction exhibition will be held in the Kestenbaum & Company gallery at 242 West 30th Street in New York City from Sunday, November 10th through Wednesday, November 13th. For further information, to request images, or any other queries, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197 or Jackie@kestenbaum.net.

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