Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Upcoming Auction

Kestenbaum & Co. will be holding an auction next Thursday, Feb. 24th. On its site, it provides some highlights, and I wanted to point out a few others. Additionally, one can download the entire catalog by visiting the site.

The first edition of R. Yosef Albo's Sefer ha-Ikarim, Soncino 1485, being an incunabula is of course of note (lot 7). But, the colophon of this work is especially noteworthy. The colophon ends with "Ki mi-Tzion teitze Torah u-devar Hashem mi-Soncino." Of course, this is a a play on the verse in Isaiah. While today we know that the printing press indeed usher in a new era of Torah and the dissemination of knowledge, this colophon at the end of a work published at the advent of the printing press is especially prescient.

Another early and important work, is what is known as the "second Rabbinic bible," today we know it as Mikra'ot Gedolot (lot 53). This edition as well as the "first" is discussed by Prof. Penkower in this post.

Then we have a perennial favorite, R. Shmuel Arcivolti's Ma'ayan Ganim (lot 41). This book is perhaps most well-known for its misuse. Prof. Shapiro's post discusses some of the issues with the use of this work. But, it is worth noting that the book is divided into five sections, each beginning with the same illustration - a fountain. First, most early Hebrew books don't contain illustration in the body (title pages are a different story). Second, the fountain shows a group of (very nude) cherubs with the fountain waters exiting from a less than flattering orifice. The book is currently available online, although who is to know when someone will discover the images and remove it.

R. Yom Tov Lipmann Heller's classic work on the Rosh - today known as Ma'adnei Asher and Divrei Chamudoth - is offered with its original title (lot 136). This is the first edition and the only to bear the original title - Maadeni Melech ve-Lechem Chammudoth. According to some, the change in title was precipitated by a false rumour that the original title indicated an insult to the ruling monarch. It is worth noting, that in the latest edition of R. Heller's quasi-autobiography, Megilat Evah, the editor raises some questions as to whether this truly is the reason for changing the title.

Another important title, in this case the title page is the Sha'ar bat Rabim (lot 169). This work has a beautifully illustrated title page as well as other pages. Please see this post On The Main Line where he discusses it.

There are a few titles relating to haskalah. First, is one volume of the seminal Journal, Ha-Me'asef (lot 137). This volume contains the first appearance R. Yitzhak Satanow's Mishlei Asaf, a work written in the style of Mishlei with extensive notes. As well as David Freidlander's attack on R. Fleckles after Fleckles had denounced Mendelshon's Biur. Finally, it contains an important article regarding the controversy of whether or not one can delay burial to ensure the person is in fact dead. One addition to the note on this lot, Moshe Samat has an important article on this last topic which was recently republished in the collection of his articles, Hadash Assur min ha-Torah.

Another two haskalah works are Nachman Krochmal's Moreh Nevuchei ha-Zeman (lot 164) and R. Moshe Kunitz's defense of the Zohar, Ben Yochi (lot 165). Finally, R. Naftali Hertz Wessely's Divrei Shalom ve-Emet (lot 209) rounds out the haskalah. This book which advanced novel, for that time, educational theories was a subject of a large controversy. Interestingly enough, today, most of his reforms have been incorporated into Jewish schools.

The auction contains the Cassuto Collection (which you can read more about in the catalog) which focuses on Spainish and Portugese Jews. Now, for must of the past 500 years, that meant not Jews actually in those countries but who originated from those countries. The most popular of which is Holland - specifically Amsterdam. So we have a beautiful copy of R. Isaac Aboab work on Tanach with a portrait (lot 264) as well another (lot 263) from a Dutch Jews, where, inter alia, he criticizes the American revolution. On the topic of Dutch Jews, an excellent recent work is Nadler's, Rembrandt's Jews. See also this post discussing some internal conflicts within the Dutch community, as well as the first Jewish settlement in the Americas.

A few letters of interest. First, a letter from the Chofetz Hayyim thanking a donor for their donation to the ladies auxilary of Radin (lot 232). There are three letters from each of the past three Luavitcher's rebbitzins, all fairly personal, discussing their move from the "Motherland" (Russia) to Latvia (lots 246-48).

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