Sotheby's to sell Hebrew texts from the Valmadonna Trust Library

Manuscript Man

Manuscript Man

2015-11-16 15:05:21

Sotheby's has announced details of a sale featuring highly rare volumes from the Valmadonna Trust Library - the world's most important and extensive private library of Hebrew books and manuscripts.

The collection is the lifetime's work of Jack Lunzer, who spent decades travelling to the four corners of the globe in search of important and unique texts. Having begun the collection with a few volumes following WWII, Lunzer expanded it to include more than 11,000 items. 

"The sheer scope of this collection leaves me breathless," said Sotheby’s Consultant David Wachtel. "It is meticulously curated, comprising thousands of books, printed in hundreds of cities, written in over a dozen languages. Upon its pages are inscribed the tale of a people’s history and culture, as well as the tenets of their faith. Working with the Valmadonna Trust Library, and its indefatigable Custodian, Jack Lunzer, has been among the highlights of my professional career as a bookman.”

Leading the sale will be a remarkable copy of the 16th century Bomberg Talmud, described as "one of the great books of the Western world".

The Talmud is a compendium of hundreds of years of rabbinical discussion and debate surrounding the laws of the Bible. This copy, printed circa 1519-1523, is one of just 12 complete editions in existence and spent hundreds of years in the library of Westminster Abbey.

Mr. Lunzer spent 25 years pursuing the copy, until striking a deal by exchanging the Talmud for a 900-year-old copy of the Abbey’s original Charter. It will now be offered for sale publically for the first time in almost 500 years, with an estimated price of $5-$7 million.

Further highlights from the sale will include a Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), written in England in 1189. The book, the only dated Hebrew text that survives from Medieval England, is known as the Codex Valmadonna I and is estimated to sell for $1-$1.5 million.

"What a monument to the life and the faith and the struggles and the repeated dispersal of the Jewish people!" commented David Redden, Vice Chairman, Sotheby’s New York. "Books from every corner of the Diaspora in Europe, Asia and Africa, each book marking a town or village where Jews had insistently set up a printing press or sustained a tradition by writing a manuscript!

"The Trustees of The Valmadonna Library have now agreed to return these astonishing books to the marketplace where institutions and collectors can build or add to their own great collections."

The Valmadonna Trust Library: Part I - Magnificent Manuscripts and the Bomberg Talmud takes place in New York on December 22.

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