The Valmadonna Trust Library

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The Valmadonna Trust Library is quite simply the finest private collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world. Assembled over a span of more than six decades by visionary collector Jack Lunzer, it comprises a wide-ranging group of more than 11,000 works which chart the spread of the Hebrew press and the global dissemination of Jewish culture. The Valmadonna Trust Library, now on offer for public auction beginning on December 22, was exhibited in its entirety at in 2009. Thousands of visitors filled Sotheby’s galleries, eager to see one of the greatest collections in the world. The sale of The Valmadonna Library is a remarkable opportunity to acquire treasures from one of the world’s most important private libraries of Hebrew books and manuscripts.
The Valmadonna Trust Library: Part I
22 December | New York

The Valmadonna Trust Library

  • The Valmadonna copy of the Bomberg Talmud, Venice, 1519-1539. Estimate: $5,000,000–7,000,000.
    A magnificent complete copy of the Bomberg Talmud, universally recognized as one of the most significant publications in the history of Hebrew printing and one of the great books of the Western world. While the Hebrew Bible is undoubtedly the foundation upon which Judaism is built, it is the Talmud that serves as the framework that has given form to Jewish life and ritual observance across the centuries. The Bomberg edition of the Talmud became the standard for all subsequent editions, and its foliation and layout are still adhered to today. The amazingly fresh condition of the nine-volume Valmadonna copy is complemented by its distinguished provenance and magnificent contemporary binding. In terms of importance, rarity, and condition, the Valmadonna copy of Daniel Bomberg’s Babylonian Talmud is one of the finest in the world. If the first half of the sixteenth century is the “Golden Age” of Hebrew printing, then the Bomberg Talmud is undoubtedly the pinnacle achievement of the period.

  • Hebrew Bible: Pentateuch, Spain-Portugal, 11-12th Century. Estimate: $1,000,000–1,500,000.
    With the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the fifteenth century, Sephardic Jews were dispersed to every corner of the known world. With them they took their most precious possessions, their books. Even so, complete Hebrew Bibles written in pre-expulsion Iberia are exceedingly rare. In addition to the biblical text itself, this manuscript includes the Masorah, the system of extra-biblical notations which ensures the correct transmission of the writing and reading of the Hebrew Bible.

  • Hebrew Bible: Psalms with commentary by David Kimhi, Scribe: Shem-Tov Ben Samuel Barukh, Italy, 1401. Estimate: $300,000–500,000.
    Rabbi David Kimhi, best-known by the Hebrew acronym Radak, was a thirteenth-century grammarian and exegete from Provence. His biblical commentary was among the most popular and widely studied exegetical works of the medieval period. The ornamentation of this manuscript reflects the high caliber of Italian Hebrew manuscript decoration in the fifteenth century, when the art of illumination reached a new peak. The pages are embellished with vibrantly colored floral motifs and richly illuminated in gold leaf in the late Gothic style of Northern Italy.

  • Hebrew Bible: Pentateuch, Yemen, 15th Century. Estimate: $150,000–250,000.
    The Pentateuch, the “Crown” of Hebrew books, was referred to by Jews of Arab lands as Keter in Hebrew and as Taj in Arabic. Although the square, bold script of this Pentateuch resembles other fifteenth-century Yemenite Bibles, this manuscript is notable for its colorful decoration: stylized figures of birds, geometric patterns, and other floral designs. It is nevertheless consistent with Oriental Hebrew manuscript tradition in the complete absence of textual illustration and, certainly, of human figures.

  • Hebrew Bible: Pentateuch, Scribe: Benayah ben Saadiah ben Zechariah, Sana, Yemen, 1469. Estimate: $200,000–300,000.
    The Hebrew texts penned by master scribe Benayah ben Saadiah ben Zechariah, in Sana, Yemen are noted for their accuracy and beauty, and for very good reason. The text ends with the statement that the present work is “completely according to the arrangement of the book which was in Egypt, which was edited by Ben Asher….” The reference is of course to the work known as the Aleppo Codex, universally recognized since the time of Maimonides as the most accurate recension of the Hebrew Bible.

  • Talmud Tractate Pesahim, Provence, ca. 1450. Estimate: $300,000–500,000.
    Manuscript copies of the Talmud from the Middle Ages are exceptionally rare in light of the frequent confiscation, censorship and destruction of Talmud volumes by ecclesiastical authorities. Written in a fifteenth-century Sephardic hand, the text of the Mishnah is penned in square letters and the Gemara in semi-cursive script. Based on an analysis of the paper as well as on codicological and paleographical evidence, Professor Malachi Beit-Arié has demonstrated that this work was written in Provence between 1447 and 1452.

  • Samaritan Pentateuch, Land of Israel: 14–15th Century. Estimate: $80,000–120,000.
    Samaritans, who claim descent from the post-Solomonic northern Israelite kingdom, only include the Five Books of Moses in their biblical canon. While they do not recognize divine authorship or inspiration in any other book of the Hebrew Bible, they do maintain a non-canonical secular version of the book of Joshua. This exceedingly rare miniature Samaritan Bible codex was formerly in the fabled collection of David Solomon Sassoon.

  • Miniature Grace After Meals, Scribe-Artist: Ze’ev Wolf Herlingen, Vienna, 1737. Estimate: $150,000 – 250,000.
    This exquisite manuscript comprising a variety of occasional blessings is typical of the renaissance of illuminated Hebrew manuscript production in the eighteenth century. Skilled scribe-artists were frequently commissioned to create these beautiful small books on behalf of their patrons, many of whom functioned as Court Jews, providing service to the rulers of the numerous political entities of eighteenth-century Central Europe. Although the scribe has not signed this book, scholars have identified this manuscript as the work of Ze’ev Wolf Herlingen, one of the foremost scribe-artists of the period.

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