Archive for the 'Daniel Bomberg' Category


Sotheby’s Upcoming Jewish Auctions – Part 1 – Important Judaica

Sotheby’s (1334 York Avenue; NY, NY 10021; Tel:212.606.7000) is having two exhibits on subjects of Jewish interest, prior to the auctions on Tuesday, the 17th of December. There are a hundred and sixty one lots in the Important Judaica exhibit, with one hundred and forty two lots in Israeli and International Art.

Many unusual items are shown in the Important Judaica section, including paintings, ceremonial art, books and more, ranging from antiquity to the 20th century in age. Quite a number of items impressed me, following is a small sampling…


Hamisha Humshei Torah - Printed in 1561

Hamisha Humshei Torah – Printed in 1561

The above pictured item, Lot 136, includes the full Chumash together with RaSH”I and a condensed version of Elija Mizrahi‘s Sefer Mizrahi (a supercommentary on RaSH”I), titled Kitzur Mizrahi, as authored by Jacob Marcaria in Riva di Trento. Marcaria was a physician, printer and author. He printed a small number of titles in the press of German Rabbi Yosef Ottolengo – who had been licensed to print Hebrew books by Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo, Bishop of Trento. Included here are the Megillot (Scrolls) with commentaries by RaSH”I and Yitzchak Arama. It was obviously meant as a synagogue volume as it also includes the haftarot for the whole year as well as commentaries to aid in understanding these additional biblical readings. It is estimated to sell for $5,000 to $7,000.

Another book I found compelling was Sefatayim Yishak, Lot 143. In this slim volume are two letters written by Rabbi Jacob Yehoshua Falk – an ally of Rabbi Yaakov Emden – and Rabbi Aryeh Leib of Amsterdam – another staunch Emden ally and his brother-in-law. The letters, directed to the Rabbinical Court in Prague, expressed great concern and opposition to the newly appointed Rabbi of the German cities of Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbeck, Rabbi Yonathan Eybeschutz. Since Rabbi Eybeschutz‘ son and brother were known as Shabtai Tzvi followers, Rabbi Emden (whose father, the Chacham Tzvi, had been involved in a bitter fight against Nechemya Ochayon, after the latter was proven to be a full fledged Sabbatean) suspected Rabbi Eybeschutz‘ of secretly being a Sabbatean (especially after the latter gave a pregnant woman an amulet he wrote). This item is estimated at $10,000 to $12,000, it was printed in Altona in 1752.

More interesting books, among others, include Robert Estienne‘s Biblia Hebraica – in eight volumes – printed during a two and half year period from 1543 to 1546 (Lot 137), estimated at $20,000 to $30,000. An unusual collection of moral fables and animal stories, Meshal Ha-Kadmoni (Lot 134), by Yitzchak Ibn Shahula (and discussed by David Wachtel during last evening’s broadcast, on our radio show), has an estimated range of $30,000 to $40,000. It has some eighty woodcut illustrations and the material is based on the Talmud and Midrashim, with kabbalistic and Indian influences.

A very unusual tome, which appeared in Catania (Sicily), is a Compendium of Medical Treatises in Judeo-Arabic and Hebrew (Lot 96). While Arab copies of some of these works are relatively common, only three other copies in Hebrew letters are known. Jews lived in Catania as early as 383 B.C and many references to this town indicate, in later centuries, the presence of of numerous Jewish physicians. It’s price is expected to come in at around $8,000 to $12,000.

This medical book appeared around 1452

This medical book appeared around 1452

Another rare treasure is the first printed edition of the Talmud Yerushalmi by Daniel Bomberg (Lot 133). It took two years to print it (1522 to 1524), and was based on Yechiel ben Yekuthiel ben Benyamin Ha-Rofe‘s work from 1289, known as the Leyden Manuscript. It is expected to sell between $20,000 to $30,000.

Oppenhaim's the Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara - painted in 1862, four years after the tragic event.

Oppenhaim’s The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara – painted in 1862, four years after the tragic event.

Among the paintings in this auction, two stand out. Moritz Daniel Oppenheim‘s The Kidnapping of Egardo Mortara (Lot 60)*, depicts a horrible event from 1858 that drew international interest and world outrage against the Pope and the Catholic Church. This barbaric, unashamedly antisemitic act, was the catalyst that brought about the Resorgimento – the unification of Italy under King Vittorio Emmanuele and the erosion of Papal power over the country in 1870). It is estimated to bring in $200,000 to $300,000. Isidor Kaufman‘s Portrait of a Young Rabbi (Lot 61), is another very powerful painting, with estimates ranging from $100,000 to $150,000.

Painted circa 1897

Painted circa 1897

The two watercolors by Georg Emanuel Opitz (Lot 62) (not a Jewish artist, though many of his works show Jews), depict rather whimsically a Jewish teacher punishing one of his students as the other kids make fun of their mentor behind his back,  as explained by Jennifer Roth last evening on our radio show. The second watercolor shows a mother trying to intercede – on behalf of her daughter and her nervous suitor – with the father to accept the match. Both watercolors are expected to go for $8,000 to 12,000.

There are also many other items ranging from Torah finials, to crowns, to breastplates, to candelabra and more. All in all, this is a superb collection of items spanning hundreds of years and into the 20th century. Truly Important Judaica!


* The white colored streaks in Oppenheim’s painting above do not show damage to the canvas, they are nothing more than reflections of the light in the exhibition hall.


A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 2

Last Wednesday, I found my way to the Rare Judaica Auction at Kestenbaum and Company. The place quickly filled up with eager buyers and observers, I found it fascinating! Among the many items auctioned off there were printed sforim, letters, manuscripts, ceremonial art and more.

The first set of printed machzorim in the US (1837-1838)- Isaac Leeser‘s six volume edition of Siddur Siphtei Tzaddikim sold for$30,000.00.

The catalog describes it:

Siddur Sipfthei Tzaddikim, Isaac Leeser’s comprehensive prayer book, was the first American edition containing the liturgy for the entire year. It contains the original Hebrew text and an original English translation. Leeser marketed his prayer book to audiences both in America and the British colonies in the Caribbean and thus included “A prayer for a Royal Government” and “A prayer for a Republican Government”

Another interesting item that attracted attention was a broadside commemorating the 4th of July:

It commanded $20,000.00; it was printed in 1876 and is the only known copy.

“Dedicated to the People of America on the Centennial of their Liberty, July 4th 1876. On behalf of the People of Israel by Moses A. Schreiber of the 44th Street Synagogue, City of New York.”

A highly original production by Moses Aron Schreiber, Rabbi of Cong. Sha’arei Tephillah, New York. This lengthy ode celebrating the Centennial of American Independence is evenly divided in Hebrew and English and ingeniously rhymes in both languages, while being an exact translation of each other. Following an Introduction, it is set into seven sections entitled: “Taxation; Declaration; Constitution; Immigration; Arts & Sciences; Exhibition and Judah’s Offering”

Written with immense patriotic fervor informed by a passionate religious belief, clearly Rabbi Moses Schreiber’s sense of being a patriotic American is certainly not less than his pride in being an Orthodox Jew.

Another interesting item, that sold for $11,000.00 was:

The first printed edition of the Bible, published in 1515 in Hebrew and Latin by Daniel Bomberg, translated by the apostate Felix Pratensis, sold for $11,000.00. While Bomberg’s intention was to publish the whole of the Old Testament only this book appeared. By 1516-17 Daniel Bomberg realized that he could never sell this to the Jewish market, he therefore printed the first Mikroth Gedoloth TaNa”CH (Biblia Rabbinica), which was auctioned off at $47,500.00.

A fragment of a lost manuscript of Maimonides Commentary on the Mishna

It went for $23,000.00. Written less than 20 years after Maimonides passing, by Saadia al-Addani in 1222 in Judeo-Arabic, it is the oldest known Hebrew codex copied in Yemen.

The Szyk Haggadah commanded $25,000.00, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe‘s letter (written when he was only 23, long before he took over his father-in-law’s position as the revered head of the movement) to the Rogatchover Gaon sold for $30,000.00.

Many items representing our religious/literary endeavors through out the ages, and from many countries were featured in this auction. Many of these revolutionized Jewish thought, many became intrinsic texts elucidating various aspects of Jewish Law, tradition, kabbalah and more… The great, the controversial, the unknown and the unknown were well represented here.

In Part 3, the final installment of this series, we will cover Ceremonial and Fine Art items.



A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 1


A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 1

“I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations … They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern.”
John Adams, Second President of the United States
(From a letter to F. A. Van der Kemp [Feb. 16, 1808] Pennsylvania Historical Society)

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting the offices of Kestenbaum and Company, Auctioneers of Rare Books, Manuscripts, Fine Art and Vintage Wines. Whether you spent any portion of your life learning, or if you merely just wondered about the chain of history of our sacred literature, this auction will forever change your outlook! To know that the chain is unbroken, like a spine, intact through generations, is affirming and so powerful as if I felt tradition coursing thorough my veins with each turn of carefully preserved page…

I started my journey into seforim history with Daniel Bomberg‘s 4 volume TaNa”CH or Biblia Rabbinica (Lot 71)…

The Catalog appraises it between $50,000 to $70,000 and describes it thus, on page 23:


The first Rabbinic Bible to present the Massorah. The Text of this edition became the standard Massoretic text for all subsequent editions. See D. S. Berkowitz, In Rememberance of Creation (1968) no 166.

The first Biblia Rabbinica printed by Bomberg in 1516-17 was edited by the apostate Jew Felix Pratensis and contained the Imprimatur of the Pope. Bomberg quickly realized that these two facts marginalized the Great Bible from the Jewish market.  Bomber therefore employed Jacob b. Chaim ibn Adonijah, newly arrived in Venice (after being driven out from Spain and then Tunis), as editor of the Second Biblia Rabbinica. A meticulous and most knowledgeable Jewish editor, Jacob ben Chaim went to great pains to secure as many codices with a Massorah as possible. For the first time, there was issued a printed Hebrew Bible with a marginal Massorah, which, as hoped by Bomberg, was received with acclaim by the Jewish market. THUS THIS BIBLE MAY BE SAID TO THE THE FIRST JEWISH RABBINIC BIBLE

It comes with Targum Onkeles, commentaries by RaSH”I, ibn Ezra, Kimchi and more.

I stood in awe as I held the second printed edition of the Shulchan Aruch (Lot 185)…

Printed in Venice in 1567 by Giovanni Griffo, with all four parts in one volume and four title pages The final leaf has the signatures of the censors. Dampstained and with yellowing pages, it was rebound in elaborately blind-tooled morocco. Priced at $10,000.00 to $12,000.00

Next I saw the first editions of R. Yisroel Meir Kagan of Radin‘s Chofetz Chaim and Shmiras Haloshon

The Chofetz Chaim was printed in 1873 and priced between $2000 to $3000, while Shmiras Haloshon was printed in 1876 and goes for $1000 to $1500. Both texts are First Editions.

With Pessach just around the corner how could I not look at the Haggadot?

Starting with the magnificent Haggada illustrated by Arthur Szyk (Lot 146)…


Published in London in 1939-40, it has a dedication to King George VI of England, it’s priced between $30,000 to $40,000. The Times Literary Supplement described it as “…one of the most beautiful works ever produced by human hands… Szyk’s Haggadah stands among Hebrew illuminated manuscripts, in a moment of time, for all time, in a class by itself.

From left to right in the above photo:

First edition of Isaac Chayut‘s Siyach Yitzchok, published in 1587 (Lot 102), it goes for $800 to $1200

A series of kabbalistic poems with commentary, all of whose themes relate to the First Night of Passover, including instructions and laws pertaining to the Seder.

On the right, we have an Haggadah with the Abarbanel‘s commentary (Zevach Pessach), printed in 1561 in Rivo di Trento (Italy) by Jacob Marcaria. Marcaria, the catalog tells us, was a physician and scholar who published books in all branches of Judaica, often adding his own scholarly prefaces. It is listed as being in the $4000 to $6000 range

With the hundreds of sfarim and secular books and kisvey yad I saw on display, it was very hard to decide which ones I would include in this first installment. Needless to say, this will be a multi-part series.

Before closing this post and considering the auction is to take place today at 3:00 pm at Kestenbaum and Company (242 West 30th Street; New York, NY 10001 – Tel: 212.366..1197) I can only say that having spent parts of my life learning from some of this very same sforim (albeit in modern editions!), it would be hard for me to understand if at least most of the items are not bought by those who know that their value is far beyond the price they command. It was with deep emotion (which still overwhelms me as I write) that I (and every yid, who spent/spends time learning) beheld this collection… Why? Because the worth of these items lies far deeper than in being early editions, they represent our very faith as Jews, they represent our universal truth, they summarize the values that define us!



Judaica at Sotheby’s – Valmadonna Trust Library

This past Sunday, I went to Sotheby’s to see the current exhibits. On the first flight up, they were showing Mid 20th Century Furnishings, and a collection spanning the over 4 decades’ career of 20th century American painter Sam Francis. In the Furnishings area, there was a small glass enclosed alcove where a tiny sampling of the more than 11,000 sfarim of the Valmadonna Trust Library was on show.

The entire collection had already been exhibited in 2009, occupying the whole of Sotheby’s 10th floor gallery. Sotheby’s press release, at the time, described it thus:

New York, NY; February 9, 2009 – Sotheby’s announced today that it would display in its entirety, for the first time ever, the Valmadonna Trust Library, the finest private library of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world. Assembled over the past century, this extensive group of over 11,000 works is monumental in its significance as a primary source on both world history and Jewish life and culture. The collection boasts rarities dating from the 10th century to the early 20th century from Italy, Holland, England, Greece, Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, India, and China, documenting the spread of the Hebrew press and the dissemination of Jewish culture around the globe. Among the treasures in the collection are: the only surviving manuscript written in England before the expulsion of the Jews in 1290; arguably the finest copy of the Babylonian Talmud produced between 1519 and 1523 by famed printer Daniel Bomberg, which was previously in the collection of Westminster Abbey; as well as the preeminent group of Hebrew books in existence from the dawn of printing (15th century). The entire collection will be exhibited in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries from February 9-19, 2009, with the exception of February 14th.

A small sampling of this rare sfarim collection

This superb collection is comprised of books and manuscripts including Bibles and Talmuds, kabbalistic texts, siddurim, and Passover haggadot. Among the Library’s other holdings are Hebrew grammatical and legal texts; medical, philosophical and literary treatises; as well as periodicals, broadsheets, and wall calendars—particularly rare items on account of their ephemeral nature.

Printed by Daniel Bomberg, Maseches Me'ilah, around 1519-1523

Many medieval texts are here, dating from as early as the 10th century and including the first printed sfarim from the late 15th century. Among the collection’s jewels is a ktav yad of the earliest known Ashkenazic script, a Franco-German Chumash, dating from the 10th or 11th century. The crown jewel, however, is the Codex Valmadonna I. This is the only dated Hebrew text in existence from medieval England, before King Edward I’s 1290 edict expelling the Jews. The year following this manuscript’s creation, in 1190, mobs in York attacked the Jewish community living there, massacring the population, and looting their property.

Other opulent manuscripts in the collection include a Yemenite Chumash from the early 15th century, replete with characteristic Oriental illuminations. Of the original 29,000  titles – incunables [books printed on Gutenberg’s original presses] – only 140 were done in lashon kodesh. This collections has almost half of them!

A superb collection, Sotheby’s is hoping to sell as one, perfect for an institution of Jewish learning!


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,770 other followers

Calendar of Posts

December 2022


Visit our friends at the Kosher Wine Society

Category Cloud

18 Restaurant Abigael's baking baking recipes BlogTalkRadio cheese Chef David Kolotkin Chef Jeff Nathan Chef Lévana Chef Lévana Kirschenbaum chicken chicken recipes cookbook authors cookbooks dairy cuisine dairy recipes Esti Berkowitz fine dining fine kosher dining fine kosher dining in Manhattan fine kosher restaurants fine restaurants fish fish recipes Geila Hocherman Internet Radio Irving Schild Jack's Gourmet Jeff Nathan Jewish history Kim Amzallag kosher kosher baking kosher baking recipe kosher baking recipes kosher beef kosher beef recipes kosher cheese kosher chefs kosher chicken dishes kosher chicken recipes kosher cookbook authors kosher cookbooks kosher cookery Kosher cooking kosher cooking classes kosher cooking demos kosher cuisine kosher dairy kosher dairy cuisine kosher dairy recipes kosher desserts kosher dining kosher dining in Brooklyn kosher dining in Manhattan kosher dining in NY kosher fine dining kosher fine wines kosher fish kosher fish recipes Kosher food kosher Italian cuisine kosher lamb recipes kosher meat dishes kosher meat recipes kosher meat restaurants kosher meat restaurants in Manhattan kosher Mediterranean cuisine kosher parve recipes kosher poultry dishes kosher poultry recipes kosher recipes kosher restaurant review Kosher restaurants kosher restaurants in Brooklyn kosher restaurants in Manhattan kosher restaurants in New York City kosher restaurants in NY Kosher Revolution Kosher Scene kosher soup recipes kosher wine kosher wines Lévana Lévana Kirschenbaum meat recipes parve recipes Passover Pomegranate Supermarket poultry poultry recipes Prime Grill Royal Wine Corporation Shavuos recipes Susie Fishbein The Kosher Scene The Kosher Scene Radio Show Uncategorized Wine

%d bloggers like this: