For the month of May, I’ve written three previews of international events. One of these is a sale by Kedem Auctions, an auction house headquartered in Jerusalem that was established in 2008. The name “Kedem,” derived from Hebrew, is a direct reference to the past, but also translates to “progress.” With their focus on the history and culture of the Jewish people, Kedem Auctions looks both to the past and to the future as they seek quality historical material to auction for preservation and appreciation going forward.
Taking place on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, Rare and Important Items features 110 lots, of which more than 80% are works on paper—books, maps, manuscripts, ephemera, and drawings. Jewish history is rich and varied, and it stretches far back in time; the material presented for sale represents this fact well: the oldest item dates from the 14th century and the newest from the 20th. Collectors, new and old, of Jewish history and Judaica will surely want to browse the catalog. Though the live auction begins May 9, online bidding is underway at the time of this writing.
The item with the highest estimate of the sale is part of the minority of items that are not works on paper. Lot 58 is the pipe of “Yehudi HaKadosh [“Sacred Jew”],” founder of the Peschischa sect of Hasidism in Przysucha, Poland. The pipe has an interesting and storied history, including being lost and returned. Bidding begins at $100,000 with estimates ranging $500,000 to $1,000,000.
Returning to this site’s focus, a highlight of the sale is lot 35, a letter of blessing and Hatavat Chalom [literally, “making a better dream”], written by Rebbe Meir of Premishlan to his daughter around 1840. The Premishlan Hasidic Dynasty was founded by the Great Grand Rabbi Meir Hagadol of Premishlan in the 18th century, and the author of this letter, his grandson, was the most famous rabbi of this dynasty that still holds court in Israel today. According to Mattis Kantor’s Codex Judaica: Chronological Index of Jewish History, Rebbe Meir was a “miracle worker.” Along with the letter itself, the lot includes an expert’s report, which deciphers the contents of the letter and its connotations. Lot 35 begins bidding at $45,000 with an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. If rare letters and manuscripts from renowned rabbis and rebbes are of interest to you, there is a sizeable offering to browse within the catalog.
The earliest dated item of the sale is lot 12, a collection of early Yemenite manuscript fragments removed from the “Binding Geniza,” dating to Yemen in the year 1343 AD. The contents of the leaves include Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh [Rituals for Blessing of the Month], sections from Chapters 5-8, 11-19; Hilchot Ta'anit [Rituals for Fasting], section from Chapters 1-4. These leaves are related to a similar manuscript held in the San Francisco Sutro Library. Whether in a museum, library, or private collection, something of this age will require museum-level care! With an estimate of $5,000 to $10,000, bidding begins at $2,000.
Maps are not heavily featured in the sale, but lot 94 is an excellent example worth noting. Printed circa 1873-1874 in London, this folding map of Eretz Israel is quite large, measuring 1.3 meters by 1 meter [52” by 40”]. Depicting Israel on both sides of the Jordan, and delineating the journey of the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land, this map belongs in a display frame. An uncommon feature of this map is that the title and many of the notes and names are multilingual, appearing in English, French, Hebrew, and Yiddish. Bidding starts at $2,000 with estimates between $3,000 and $5,000.
Moving forward into the 20th century, several lots are quite compelling, with estimates that are quite reasonable.
Lot 101 is a lithograph portrait on handmade Japanese paper of Albert Einstein, signed by both the artist Hermann Struck as well as Einstein himself. Estimates are between $3,000 and $5,000, with bidding opening at $2,000.
Lot 104 is for anyone with an eye for more recent Israeli history, being a collection of over 45 autographs and signed letters about the Yishuv (the Jewish community in pre-State Palestine) and the State of Israel. Letters and autographs include noted Jewish luminaries such as Sir Moses Montefiore, Dr. Bezalel Yaffe, Meir Dizengoff, Moshe Sharett, David Yellin, Joseph Bentwich, Arthur Ruppin, Menachem Ussishkin, David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan, and Gershom Shalom. Lot 104 opens with bidding at $7,000 with an estimate ranging $8,000 to $12,000.
And finally, lot 107 is a Nazi Germany advertising poster for the exhibition “Degenerate Art” held in Chemnitz, Germany in 1939). The travelling show was made up of art confiscated from museums and galleries throughout Germany during the Nazi rise and displayed modern art that was viewed by the Nazi as being degenerate and perverse. It included works of many of the most famous and respected modern artists of the first half of the 20th century, including Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, and Kandinsky. This is another item, like the map of Eretz Israel, that would be most at home on display.
Kedem Auctions’ sale of Rare and Important Items takes place Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 7 pm Israel time (6pm CET, 12 noon EST, 9am PST) at Kedem’s offices at 8 Ramban St. in Jerusalem. Bidding may be done live in person, by telephone, via preliminary bids, and online in real time, either on the Kedem website or via Invaluable.com and LiveAuctioneers. As mentioned before, online bidding is already underway. Logging in with an existing account or registering is required for online participation.
Viewings of the sale will take place at Kedem’s offices at these dates and times:
May 4: noon – 8pm
May 7: noon – 8pm
May 8: noon – 8pm
May 9 (day of sale): 10am – 2pm
The entire catalog can be viewed online here.