Auction 94 Rare & Excellent Hebrew Printed Books: From the Library of Arthur A. Marx
Jun 17, 2021
 The Brooklyn Navy Yard, 141 Flushing Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11205

Post-Auction Report: Sale 94, June 17, 2021

    Kestenbaum & Company was privileged to again offer an auction comprising of premier Hebrew printed books. As it comprised of an especially remarkable single-owner collection of Hebrew printed books, this sale garnered high levels of interest and activity from hundreds of participants and spectators.

 Interest was spread across all categories of the literary categories on offer.

    In Biblical works, the beloved First Edition commentary to the Pentateuch, Kli Yakar, brought in $6,000 (Lot 140), beating its initial estimate of $3,000-4,000. A Zhitomir edition of Psalms garnered $7,500 (Lot 460) and the Vilna Gaon’s commentary to Mishlei fetched $7,500 (Lot 119). Midrashic works fared just as well, with a First Edition Mechilta realizing $12,000 (Lot 349) and a Second Edition Sifra- Torath Kohanim accomplishing $5,500 against an estimate of $1,000-$1,500 (Lot 353).

    Medieval Pietistic compositions proved exceedingly popular in this sale. The First Edition of Rabbeinu Yonah’s Sha’arei Teshuvah was hammered in at $40,000 (Lot 168) while the First Edition of Sepher HaChassidim achieved $16,000, against its estimate of $4,000-6,000 (Lot 226). The First Edition of Orchoth Tzaddikim sold for $6,500 (Lot 386) and two copies of Chovoth HaLevavoth both sold for more than twice their estimates (Lot 42 and Lot 43) testifying to the notable interest in this field.

    Liturgical works also fared well. An immaculate Basle prayerbook dating to 1579 brought in $50,000 (Lot 261) and a miniature set of Festival Prayers printed in Jerusalem fetched $11,000 (Lot 306). Perhaps the most impressive lot in the sale, the First Edition incunable of Abudarham, printed in Lisbon, 1489, was hammered in at $90,000 (Lot 7). Finally, a Selichoth printed at Slavita garnered $9,500- nine times more than its original estimate of $1,000-1,500 (Lot 301).

    Competitive bidding was also seen for classic Halakhic texts. The Bomberg Edition of Alfasi’s Rif- Sepher Halachoth sold for $34,000 (Lot 14) while Maimonides’ Mishnah Torah, printed with Joseph Karo’s Keseph Mishnah for the first time, achieved $15,000 (Lot 373). The First Editions of Israel Isserlein’s Terumath Hadeshen and Pesakim U’Kethavim brought in $5,500 (Lot 213). The First Edition of Solomon Luria’s Yam Shel Shlomo to Bava Kama garnered $3,400 (Lot 328) and Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller’s Ma’adnei Yom-Tov fetched $3,600 (Lot 194).

    In Kabbalah, the First Edition of the Zohar accomplished $20,000- five times its initial estimate (Lot 414). Likewise, the First Edition of Moses Cordovero’s Tomer Devorah realized $12,000 (Lot 101) and the esoteric Megaleh Amukoth was hammered in at $9,500 (Lot 425).

    More broadly focused works of Jewish Philosophy saw the First Edition of Shnei Luchot Haberith achieve $10,000 (Lot 195). The entirety of the Maharal of Prague’s First Edition works were snatched up (Lots 317-324), while RaMBaN’s Torat Ha’Adam brought in $13,000 (Lot 374). Both major historiographical texts in this sale were also accounted for- Moses Zacuto’s Sepher Yuchasin was sold for $32,000 (Lot 474) and Joseph Cohen’s Divrei Hayamim garnered $20,000 (Lot 475).

    We look forward to our next sale of Fine Judaica, which will take place in late July 2021. For further information, or any other queries, please contact us at 212-366-1197 or

The auction has ended

LOT 42:

Chovoth HaLevavoth [pietism]. Translated into Hebrew by Judah ibn Tibbon. ...

Sold for: $28,000
Start price:
$ 12,000
Estimated price:
$12,000 - $18,000
Auction house commission: 25%

Chovoth HaLevavoth [pietism]. Translated into Hebrew by Judah ibn Tibbon. <<With supplement:>> Sepher Tikun HaNephesh by Solomon ibn Gabirol.

Third edition and First edition of supplement. Title within woodcut architectural border. Scattered old marginal notations, signed by censor on f.(2)r.
ff. (6), 9-102. Light stains, marginal repair to title. Modern elegant blind-tooled auburn morocco (Valmadonna binding). Housed in custom slip-case. Sm. 4to. Vinograd, Const. 200.
Constantinople: Moses ben Eliezer Parnas 1550

A HIGHLY SCARCE EDITION OF A FUNDAMENTAL TEXT OF JEWISH THOUGHT. The earlier two edition (1489 and 1548) were, according to the present printer, “filled with errors and lacunae.” In composing the work toward the close of his life, R. Bachiah attempted to systemize the ethical teachings of Judaism. “The Torah is divided into two parts: the duties to be performed by the organs (chovoth ha’evarim) and the duties of the heart (chovoth ha’lev) - namely those belonging to human conscience. The majority of the rabbis pay attention only to the outward observance of the Law, without regard to the ideas and sentiments embodied in the 613 laws of Moses. Even the pious are often prompted only by selfish and worldly motives.”(Introduction). Thus Bachiah undertook to write the present celebrated text: “The Duties of the Heart.” The work is sectioned into ten portals where the phases of ethics and piety are discussed, such as service, trust, humility, temperance of human conduct and finally the love of God. The essence of all spirituality in R. Bachiah’s view is the recognition of God as the singular Designer of all things. R. Bachiah was the first to employ the famous “Argument from Design” in Jewish philosophy. The world in its complicated aspect and harmonious arrangement testifies that it was created by the design of a Creator. “Where there is purpose manifested, there must have been wisdom at work. Ink spilled accidentally upon a sheet of paper cannot produce legible writing.” R. Bachiah’s primary interest lies in forming a pure conception of God and quotes seven proofs of the unity of God. “The world itself testifies not only to a Creator, but to One, for it is so beautifully harmonious that we must involuntarily conclude that it is a manifestation of the plan of a single Creator.” R. Bachiah combines great depth of emotion, a vivid poetic imagination, the power of eloquence, the beauty of diction along with a penetrating intellect. He was well fitted to write a work the main object of which was not to argue about and defend the doctrines of Judaism, but to appeal to the sentiments and to stir and elevate the hearts of the people.