Monday, March 23, 2009

Upcoming Auctions

There are three upcoming auctions, Kestenbaum , Asufa, and Jerusalem Judaica.  The first two have their catalogs online while the final one is only available in hardcopy.  Kestenbaum has two very rare and thus highly prized pieces, one the 1526 Prague Haggadah. (Lot number 124) This edition, which is the first complete (there were some leaves found in a binding containing illustrations that may or may not be earlier, but, in all events, it was not a complete copy), illustrated Haggadah.  We have discussed this edition here and here.  Additionally, we have mentioned that the illustration that adorns shefoch was used as the title page for the Levush and, most recently, was censored.  This haggadah is particularly rare (and expensive).  There are five known complete copies to exist and there are one or two copies complete copies on vellum (I have seen both numbers quoted).  The Valmaddona Trust owns a vellum copy, and at the time it was purchased in 1982 it was the most expensive printed Hebrew book sold when it sold for $143,000. In 1995 a paper copy of this edition sold for $300,000.  It is my understanding that today, the record for the highest price paid for Hebrew book is for the Shabbtai Sofer Siddur with the various autographs, although, if one counts the 11 volumes of the Bomberg Talmud printed on blue paper as one lot, those were recently sold for close to $2 million in the aggregate.  But, it is not only the amount of money paid that makes this haggadah important, many of the illustrations became the protype for subsequent haggadah illustrations.  The second very rare book at Kestenbaum is the first edition of the Ibn Ezra's commentary to the Pentateuch, which is an incunabula, printed in Naples, 1488. (Lot number 38). This particular copy is a wide margin copy and is described as the finest copy to come up for auction in decades. 

Additionally, the first edition of two important siddurim are here as well.  The Siddur Sha'ar ha-Shamayim from R. Isaiah Horowitz, the Shelah (lot no. 174) and R. Y. Emden's Siddur, (lot no. 101). Another important first edition of a liturgical work is R. Meir Ibn Gabbai's Tola'ath Ya'akov (lot no. 187) with the rare poem page.  Another work that contains a rare page is the Hon Ashir from R. Immanuel Ricci. (Lot no. 195) This work, a commentary on the Mishna, was printed in 1731, however, only some copies contain the final page that has musical notes and an accompanying poem. Finally, for those interested in forgery, Friedlander's Yerushalmi on Kodshim is lot number 224. 

On the manuscript front.  The Hida's manuscript of Birkei Yosef with some variants from the printed text. (Lot 253).  An autographed manuscript signed by R. Yonathan Eybescheutz that is "an unrecorded engagement proposal of" R. Eybescheutz daughter. (Lot no. 267).  There is a letter relating to R. J.B. Soloveitchik's failed bid for Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv from his father, R. Moshe.  (Lot no. 296). 

Tomorrow, we will discuss the other two auctions.


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