New York - Judaica Auction Shatters Records At Sotheby’s
New York - A rare lot of Judaica fetched unprecedented prices today at Sotheby’s, bringing in close to $15 million and setting a pair of world records for Judaica auctions.
As previously reported on VIN News, the collection of books and manuscripts had been assembled by diamond dealer Jack Lunzer of London, who purchased Judaica as he traveled the world on business.
Lunzer’s library had originally been offered by Sotheby’s in 2009 as a single lot with an estimated value of $30 million or more but while the collection generated interest among the public it failed to sell at auction.
Today’s auction featured part of Lunzer’s collection, with all 12 items offered sold for a combined of $14,868,000, breaking the previous record for the most valuable Judaica auction of $8.5 million, set at Sotheby’s in New York two years ago.
The centerpiece of today’s auction was a Babylonian Talmud printed by Daniel Bomberg in Venice in the 16th century, the first to be printed in the 1520s and one of just 14 full copies still in existence after a 1550 papal edict banning Hebrew books resulted in the destruction of many seforim.
The nine volume calfskin bound set is thought to be the finest surviving copy of Bomberg’s Talmud, according to Sotheby’s, and had been owned by Westminster Abbey for 450 years.
After seeing the historical Talmud on display at a show at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Lunzer embarked on a 25 year quest to acquire the valuable set, finally exchanging it with the Abbey for a 900 year old copy of the Abbey’s original charter.
The Bomberg Talmud was purchased today by Stephan Lowentheil for the 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop for $9.3 million, felling the previous record for a single piece of Judaica set by a late 15th century Italian chumash which brought in $3.85 million at Christie’s in Paris last year.
Another extremely rare item sold today was an 1189 Chumash written in England, described by Sotheby’s as “the most important privately owned book in the world.” It is the only known existing Hebrew book written in England prior to the ejection of Jews from Britain in 1290 and the oldest dated manuscript of Targum Unkelus on both the Chumash and the five Megillos.
The Chumash, which had passed through nine different owners, sold for $3.6 million. An illuminated Tehillim written in 1401 with commentary of the Radak and adorned with colorful flower buds, flourished frames and gold balls sold for $670,000.
Also sold were five more rare chumashim, an incomplete 12th century Torah, an illustrated 1737 bentsher, a decorated 18th century women’s siddur and a 15th century Gemara Pesachim.
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