Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Including a Collection of Holy Land Maps at Kestenbaum

Kestenbaum & Company’s forthcoming auction of Fine Judaica will take place on Thursday, June 26 at 3:00 pm at the company’s gallery in New York City. The auction is comprised of an extensive selection of Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Ceremonial Objects and Graphic Art. After an extremely successful sale of Holy Land travel books from the collection of Nathan Lewin, that was offered for auction by Kestenbaum in the spring of 2013, the current auction will feature Mr. Lewin’s collection of Holy Land maps.

Among the numerous books being offered at auction, buyers can choose from many categories including American Judaica, Antisemitica, Chassidic Texts, Early Printed Books, Passover Hagadot and materials relating to the Holocaust. A fine example in the Americana section is the United States Chronicle dated 23rd September 1790, containing the full texts of the historic exchange of “To Bigotry No Sanction” letters, written between Moses Seixas of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island and President George Washington, at an estimate of $8,000-10,000 (Lot 2). Also of note is an oration by Rev. Samuel Ullman, Birmingham, 1892, famed for his poem, Youth, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 22).

Highlights among the Chassidic Books include an exceptionally rare edition of  the book that gave rise to Chassidism: Ya’akov Yoseph of Polonoye’s Toldoth Ya’akov Yoseph, Koretz, 1780, estimated at $30,000-40,000 (Lot 49) and a scarce edition of the Chamishah Chumshei Torah with commentary by Chaim ibn Atar (the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh), Shklow, 1785, at an estimate of $14,000-18,000 (Lot 108).

A Passover Hagadah from India with celebrated illustrations depicting local Bene Israel customs, Poona, 1874, estimated at $3,000-5,000 (Lot 89) is a noteworthy selection in the Hagadah section of the auction. Other lots of interest include one of the very few Hebrew books printed in the Judeo-Tartar language, spoken in the Crimea by the Krymchaks, Piotrkow, 1905, $3,000-5,000 (Lot 65) and a Karaite Biblical manuscript written in Judeo-Turkish, Constantinople, mid 19th century, $4,000-6,000 (Lot 191).

Further important highlights include Hame’assef, the first continuous Hebrew periodical of the Haskalah movement, vols. I-X, 1783-1811, estimate $15,000-18,000 (Lot 103) and an important compendium of 16th century Papal Bullae, including several relating to Jews, most notably the Bull ordering the burning of the Talmud, Rome, 1559, estimated at $15,000-20,000 (Lot 159). Also notable is an extraordinarily rare book of Yiddish poems, Lodz, 1931, composed by “Ka-tzetnik”, written while he was a Chassidic yeshiva student in Poland. This copy is entirely complete, including the rare illustrated wrappers along with a photographic portrait inscribed and signed by the author, at an estimate of $7,000-10,000 (Lot 119).

Most prominent in the Manuscripts section of the auction is Naphtali Hertz Imber’s Sepher Barkai, Jerusalem, 1886, which contains the first appearance of what was to become the State of Israel’s National Anthem. This rare copy is inscribed and signed by the author and is estimated at $40,000-50,000 (Lot 222). Also unique is a highly attractive illuminated Kethubah; the only marriage contract extant from the North-Eastern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, composed in Faizabad, 1910.  The pre-sale estimate is $20,000-30,000 (Lot 193). 

Other manuscripts sure to be of interest to collectors include: 

  • An Autograph Letter Signed, with detailed Hebraic content by Johannes Buxtorf, Basle, 1608, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 168) 
  • An autographed presentation copy of the Koren Tanach from Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren to General Uzi Narkiss, Liberator of Jerusalem, 1967, estimate $3,000-4,000 (Lot 176)
  • Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s personal Tanach, estimate $2,000-3,000 (Lot 181) 
  • An Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Concert Program scheduled to be held a day prior to the outbreak of the Six Day War, inscribed and signed by renowned cellist Jacqueline Du Pré, Tel Aviv, 3rd June, 1967.  The pre-sale estimate is $4,000-5,000 (Lot 173). 

Also within the Manuscripts section are many other autographs by esteemed and influential rabbinic leaders, including Rabbis Raphael Breuer, Akiva Eger, Yisrael Friedman (the Chortkov Rebbe), Chaim Ozer Grodzenski, Isaac Grishaber, Moshe Kliers, Abraham David Lavut, Menachem Mendel of Shklov, Joseph Isaac Schneerson, Moses Sofer (the Chassam Sofer), etc.

The section of Maps of the Holy Land from the Collection of Nathan Lewin, Esq. features thirty five fine examples from some of the most celebrated cartographers from the 15th through 20th centuries including Heinrich Buenting, Gerard de Jode, Benedictus Aria Montanus,  Ptolemy (two rare examples from 1482 and 1520), Jacobus Tirinus and Nicolaum Visscher. 

Featured in the Graphic Arts section are works by noted artists such as S. Seeberger, Zalman Kleinman, Lucien Powell, Itshak Holtz, Reuven Rubin, Zvi Mairovitch, Shalom Moskowitz of Safed and Ephraim Moses Lilien.

Standout selections among the Ceremonial Objects being offered include an important French-Alsatian silver-gilt Kiddush beaker inscribed to Grand Rabbi Isaac Levy of Colmar in commemoration of a synagogue service held in Metz following the end of the Franco-Prussian war, 1871, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 296); a Polish-Russian silver Sabbath hanging lamp by noted silversmith Moszek Charlap, Warsaw, 1884, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 316), a petite Safed silver megillah case and scroll of Esther, late 19th century, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 324) and Eliakim Tzunser’s wood and white metal Lavabo set, c. 1887, at an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (Lot 357).

The auction exhibition will be held in the Kestenbaum & Company gallery at 242 West 30th Street in New York City from Sunday, June 22nd through Wednesday, June 25.

Auction Guide