Friday, October 22, 2010

Upcoming Kestenbaum Auction

Next week, Oct. 27, Kestenbaum & Co. is having an auction, and the catalog is availalbe online. Obviously, there are many items worth highlighting but I want to focus upon one general topic and select those lots that are relevant. The focus of this post is on translations and the vernacular.
Lot 7 is the first book using Hebrew fonts to teach Hebrew to an American audience. This book, Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue, written by Judah Monis, was a convert to Christianity from Judaism. Monis, was required to convert in order to obtain an instructorship at Harvard as a Jew could not be an instructor. Additional information on this book and Monis can be found here (as well as, of course, in the auction catalog).
Lot 12 brings us another American translation, this one Lesser's translation of the bible into English for an American audience. Lesser's other major work, an English translation of the siddur can be found at lot 23.
The Spanish translation of R. David Nieto's Mateh Dan, Kuzari Helek Sheni can be found at lot 39. Nieto, who is well-known for being the Rabbi of the London Spanish and Portuguese community, and for being especially dapper, sporting Van Dyke beard and a wig, all the rage at the time leads us to our next piece of English Judaica and translations, an English Machzor (lot 42) published in London, 1807, that also includes the frontispiece portrait of Chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschell (see this nice write up on him). Another lot, 43, also of British origin is Netivot Olam by the missionary Rev. Alexander McCaul, and is the subject of an article by Dr. S.Z. Leiman (and this nice post as well).
As we have previously discussed books given as wedding favors, lot 76, is such an item "an adroit parody" on the occasion of the wedding of R. Dr. Raphael Breuer.
Returning to translation. One of the most famous translations and translators is Moses Mendelssohn and lot 223 combines both translations and Mendelssohn. This time it is not one of Mendelssohn's own translations but a siddur edited by Yitzhak Satanow and includes a German translation. This particular item may have been Mendelssohn's own personal copy and contains the initials M.M.D. on the spine - Moses Mendelssohn of Dessau. Indeed, in the subscriber list that appears at the beginning of the volume, Mendelssohn is indicated as purchasing 6 copies.
Another translation connected to Mendelssohn is the German translation of the Mishna which in turn was praised by Mendelssohn and that compliment is repaid by the translator who praises Mendelssohn with "from Moses to Moses there are none like Moses." (Lot 236).
Continuing with the first Hebrew translation of Shakespeare, lot 267. The work in the translation department is the admittedly only loosely connected to the translation theme, the first edition of Spinoza's Opera Posthuma, lot 278.
Finally, we get to the highlight of the auction, four leaves of a Guadalajara Talmud, 1480-82, lot 279. As everyone is aware, the Spanish imprints are exceedingly rare and auctioning even four leaves is a rare event. For more on this lot, see the excellent description in the catalog.

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