Wednesday, December 20, 2017

New Auction House - Genazym

New Auction House - Genazym
by  Dan Rabinowitz, Eliezer Brodt

There is a new auction house, Genazym, that is holding its inaugural auction next week Monday, December 25th.  The catalog is available here.  The majority of the material are letters and other ephemera with a few dozen books. The books include a number with vellum bindings (71-75).  Appreciation of bindings has been brought to fore with the recent wider availability of books from the Valmadonna collection after it was broken up; a collection that was known for its exquisite bindings.[1] 

Books with illustrations form another group, including heretical images.  The title-page of the first edition of R. Yedidia Shlomo of Norzi's commentary on the biblical mesorah, Minhat Shai, Mantua, 1742-44 (76), includes Moses with horns, but more offensive is the depiction of God with a human face.   The images on the title page are various biblical vignettes and in the one for the resurrection of the "dry bones" that appears in Yehkezkel, God is shown as an old man with a white beard. [2] Another title-page containing non-Jewish imagery is the Smikhat Hakhamim, Frankfurt, 1704-06 (87).  Its title page is replete with mythological (?) or Christian (?) imagery. [3] 

The illustration on the Minchat Shai title page. Note that this is from another copy, not the one on auction.

The kabbalistic work, Raziel haMalach, (77) contains illustrations of various amulets with various mythical creatures. [4] Another book with mystical images is the Emek Halakha, Cracow 1598, (80). Less sensational images, of ships and fauna, appear in the first Hebrew book to describe America, Iggeret Orkhot Olam, Prague 1793, (83). [5] R. Tovia ha-Rofeh's Ma'ase Tovia, Venice, 1707, (95) contains an elaborate illustration that compares the human organs with various parts of a house or building. [6]

Of note for its rarity is (88), a first printing of R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto's Derech Tevunot, Amsterdam 1742. The copy is a miniature, and was owned by the great collector Elkan Nathan Adler.

Among the most controversial books in the history of Jewish literatures the forged Yerushalmi on Kodshim, (likely) written by Shlomo Yehudah Friedlander (98).  There are two versions of the book, one printed on thick paper and, on a second title page, Friedlander is referred to as a doctor.  The other version is printed on poor paper and lacks the (presumably bogus) academic credential.  The theory behind the variants is that one was targeted at academic institutions and the other at traditional Jews. [7]  Here is what it looked like:

Here are highlights from some of the letters for sale:

- There are some very interesting manuscript letters from the Chasam Sofer (46), R’ Chaim Sanzer (28) and R’ Meir Premishlan (37) .

- Letters from some of previous generations Litvish gedolim, like R’ Meir Simcha of Dvinsk (Meshech Chocham) (4), R’ Chaim Soloveitchik (2), R’ Raphael Shapiro (6), Chafetz Chaim (10), R’ Shimon Shkop (8), R Elchanan Wasserman (1), and the Brisker Rav (3). Many of these letters contain important historical information not found in other sources.

- Also of note are important, extremely rare and lengthy documents from the Rogatchover Gaon (5) and R’ Mordechai Gimpel Yaffe (9) related to the shemita and heter mechira controversies. Another letter of note is from the Minchas Elazar (29) in regard to the inheritance of R’ Alfandri.

[1] Portions of the Valmadonna Trust Collection were auctioned at Kestenbaum & Co. and Sotheby’s. here, here, hereRegarding the source of those books see here.
[2] The title, Minhat Shai, was imposed by the printer.  Norzi referred to the work as Goder Peretz.  See Jordan Penkower, “The First Printed Edition of Nozri’s Introduction to Minhat Shai, Pisa 1819,” Quntres 1:1 (Winter 2009), 9 n2.  The introduction to Minhat Shai was printed long after the work itself.  See Penkower, idem.  Moses crowned with horns appears in the earliest depiction of him to adorn a Hebrew book’s title page.  See “Aaron the Jewish Bishop,” here.
[3] A very similar title-page appears in two other books, the first edition of the Teshuvot ha-Bah and Beit Ahron.  Regarding the usage of these title-pages, see Dan Rabinowitz, “The Two Versions of the Bach’s Responsa, Frankfurt Edition of 1697,” Alei Sefer 21 (2010) 99-111.
[4] David Hanegbi, “The Printed Hebrew Book as a Talisman and Ritual Object: A Historical and Bibliographical Study in Sefer Razi'el ha-Malakh and its Editions,” (Ramat Gan:  MA Thesis, Bar-Ilan University, 2014).  Regarding the prevalence of mythical creatures in human society see Kathryn Schulz, “Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them,” New Yorker, Nov. 6, 2017 (here).  
[5] David Ruderman, The World of a Renaissance Jew:  The Life and Thought of Abraham ben Mordecai Farissol (Cincinati:  Hebrew Union College, 1981). 
[6] The book and specifically the image under discussion was recently analyzed by Etienne Lepicard, “An Alternative to the Cosmic and Mechanic Metaphors for the Human Body? The House Illustration in Ma’ashe Tuviyah (1708),” Medical History 52 (2008), 93-105.
[7] For an extensive bibliography of the literature discussing Friedlander’s edition, see Eliezer Brodt, “Tziyunim u-Meluim le’Mador ‘Netiah Soferim’Yeshurun 24 (2011) 454-455.

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