Published: March 18, 2003
Manuscripts Concerning 1555 Printing And Burning Of Talmud In Italy, Brings $149,500
NEW YORK CITY – A collection of manuscripts concerning the printing of the Talmud in Italy, and the subsequent public burning of these tomes by order of the Pope in 1555, was the top lot of Kestenbaum & Company’s sale of Fine Judaica on March 11. Estimated at $50/70,000, the collection commanded fierce bidding in the room and the phones and ultimately achieved $149,500.
The auction featured Hebrew Printed Books, Manuscripts and Works of Graphic Art. Another outstanding manuscript finding favor with buyers was the catalogue cover lot, a beautiful liturgical illuminated vellum manuscript of selected prayers by Nathan ben Samson of Mehzeritch, 1728. This example of Eighteenth Century Jewish art, with particularly well-executed illustrations and calligraphy and in very fresh condition, realized $59,800 against a pre-sale estimate of $30/40,000. Also popular with bidders in the manuscript section was Maimonides’ The Book of Precepts, 1492, which earned $23,000. This manuscript includes almost the entire text of Maimonides’ The Book of Precepts in the original Arabic version. There are only six or seven complete or close to complete manuscript copies of the Arabic version extant.
The best seller in the Printed Books section was a Hebrew Bible printed by Daniel Bomberg in Venice, 1524. This four-volume set was in fine condition and commanded a premium price of $86,250, almost tripling its pre-sale estimate of $20/30,000. A book of Rabbinic Code by Isaac ben Jacob Alfasi, Venice, 1521-2 also performed well. This fine copy of an exceptionally rare and important edition attained $43,700. Another Hebrew Bible, a wide-margined copy of a rare Venetian edition, dated 1528, exceeded its pre-sale estimate of $15/20,000 and brought in $25,300. The aesthetic appeal of early printed Hebrew books in magnificent period bindings also translated into strong results such as the $27,600 garnered for a Bible in a fine contemporary Grolier-style binding, Antwerp, 1573.
Rounding out the sale was an early Americana Marriage Contract on paper from 1751. One of the earliest American Kethuboth extant, the work was purchased for $17,250.
Daniel Kestenbaum, chairman of Kestenbaum & Company commented after the sale, “I am once again quite satisfied with the results we achieved. Undoubtedly, top quality books and manuscripts such as the ones presently offered will always command exceptional prices.”
Kestenbaum & Company’s forthcoming auctions of Fine Judaica for the 2003 season will be held on May 12, June 10, and November 18. For information, 212-366-1197.
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