Monday, December 08, 2008

Upcoming December Auctions

In the next few weeks there are a bunch of auctions. First, is Sotheby's auction of the "Delmonico" collection.  This collection, of an anonymous collector, is amazing.  It includes fifty incunabula with the balance of the auction being 16 and 17th century books.  Included in the later portion are volumes of the first edition Bomberg Talmud printed on blue paper.  These are the only known copies of these volumes. The incunabula includes the first edition of the Rambam's commentary on Mishna, the second edition of the Mishna Torah, the first book printed in the author's lifetime - the Nofet Zufim by R. Yehudah Messer Leon, first edition of the Ramban's Commentary on the Torah, the first Hebrew book with a printer's mark, as well as many, many other gems. This auction takes place on December 17th in the morning, there is another Sotheby's auction of Jewish books and Judaica taking place that afternoon as well.

The next auction is Kestenbaum which takes place a day later, on the 18th.  Some highlights from the catalog include a letter from R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (318) regarding the permissibility of teaching Talmud to girls.  "Rabbi Soloveitchik declines to present his views."  Because "'We have reached a stage at which party lines and political ideologies influence our Halachic thinking to the extent that people cannot rise above partisan issues to the level of Halacha-objectivity. . . . I am not inclined to give any of these factions an opportunity for nonsensical debates.'"  Also, in the manuscript section, are a collection of letters from R. Samson Morpurgo, (308) many dealing with the Ramchal controversy. While some have been published it appears there are discrepancies between the published versions and that of the letters in this collection.  Or for those interested in the R. Naftali Hertz Wessely controversy, the scribal copy of R. Tzvi Hirsch Berlin's resignation letter (296) is included.  Due to R. Wessely's Divrei Shalom ve-Emet, R. Berlin wanted Wessely expelled from Berlin; however, Mendelssohn defended Wessely leading Berlin to tender his resignation as Chief Rabbi of Berlin.  Later, Berlin, recinded his resignation and remained Chief Rabbi until his death in 1800.  Of course, R. Berlin was R. Saul Berlin's (publisher of Besamim Rosh) father. Although not as rare as the blue paper Bomberg, Kestenbaum has a complete copy of the Slavita, 1817-22 Talmud (256). The publication of this Talmud eventually led to the controversy betwen the Slavita and Romm presses.

When it comes to colored paper there are two lots of interest.  The first is Deinard's edition of the Zemir Aritzim (124) which is printed on multi-colored papers including blue, green, pink, and yellow, indeed, there are only two white pages in the book. The Amsterdam, 1669 Seder Keriah ve-Tikun le-Leilei Chag Shavout ve-Hoshana Rabba, "at the request of wealty bibliophiles, a handful of copies of this work were printed on colored paper" including blue or green paper.  This one (213) is on blue paper.  Returning to Deinard, there are three other books of his, including one which he inscribed (122-25).  As is well-known Deinard travelled the world, what is lesser known is the the book Sefer ha-Berit ha-Chadash (On the Life and Customs of the Jews of China), Pietrokov, 1911, (108) which Uzeil Haga describes his travels with the U.S. Armed Forces expedition in 1901 to China. In the end Haga "was suspected of espionage and was imprisoned by the Boxers where he died after suffering torture."  Two bibliographical notes.  The first is a rare catalogue of R. Pinner (translator of the Talmud into German) for the Odessa Society for History and Antiquities Holdings of Ancient Hebrew and Rabbinic Manuscripts (81).  The second is Ben-Zion Eisenstat's Otzar ha-Temunot (85) which is a collection of photographys of over 150 Rabbis from the turn of the twentith century.  The full catalog can be downloaded here. 

1 comment:

AH said...

<span>I own some old sforim that I inherited. I believe that among them is a full set of the Mishneh Brura and a copy of Nidchey Yisroel that may have been checked by the Chofetz Chaim personally. I am wondering if there is a collector that would come to us in New Jersey to look at our collection and value it for us?</span>  Please e mail us at

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