The $9.3 million Talmud - Daniel Bomberg's 16th-century printing sold at Sotheby's New York

The video shows the Bomberg Talmud sold for a bid of $8.1 million. All reports list it as sold at $9.3 million. I suppose there was a 15% commission added on.

The Examiner has a detailed report on the auction.

Art Daily has a version of the story:

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby's set a new world auction record for any piece of Judaica today in New York, when one of the finest copies of Daniel Bomberg's Babylonian Talmud sold for $9.3 million (estimate $5/7 million).* The extraordinary volume was purchased by Stephan Loewentheil for the 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop. The Bomberg Talmud led the sale of a selection of extraordinary items from The Valmadonna Trust, which totaled $14.9 million and became the most valuable auction of Judaica ever held.** Together with the auctions of Important Judaica and Israeli & International Art, Sotheby's annual December sales of Judaica and Israeli Art totaled $22.6 million. 

The Talmud, or "Oral Law," is a compendium of hundreds of years of rabbinical discussion and debate which expound upon the laws of the Bible. Daniel Bomberg is responsible for the first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud (1519-1523), universally recognized not simply as one of the most significant books in the history of Hebrew printing, but as one of the great books of the Western world. The record setting Talmud sold today is one of the finest copies of Bomberg's edition – of which only 14 complete 16th century sets survive. 

The Valmadonna Library's copy of the Bomberg Talmud was kept for centuries in the library of Westminster Abbey. In 1956, collector Jack Lunzer attended an exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum celebrating 300 years of Jewish resettlement in England. It was there that he first became aware of the Abbey's magnificent and complete copy, and vowed somehow to acquire it. He spent the next 25 years determined to fulfill this virtually impossible ambition. Eventually, he purchased a 900-year-old copy of the Abbey's original Charter, and presented it, along with supporting endowments, to the Abbey in exchange for its copy of the Bomberg Talmud. 

The Valmadonna Trust Library: Part I Magnificent Manuscripts and the Bomberg Talmud 
A further highlight of today's auction of 12 items from the Valmadonna Trust Library is a Hebrew Bible printed in England in 1189, which sold for $3.6 million (estimate $2/4 million). Known as the Codex Valmadonna I, this extraordinary book is the only dated Hebrew text that survives from Medieval England, before King Edward I's 1290 edict expelling the Jews. Also leading the sale was a Illuminated Hebrew Bible: Psalms, with commentary by David Kimhi, which achieved $670,000 (estimate $300/500,000). 

The Various-Owners auction of Judaica totaled $4.4 million, and was led by Isidor Kaufmann's rare painting Interior of the Holleschau Synagogue, which sold for $466,000 (estimate $80/120,000). The painting came from the family of Paul Grüninger, a Swiss police commander in St. Gallen who saved some 3600 Jewish refugees from Austria, following the Anschluss. The auction also featured the only known illustrated manuscript Haggadah from India, which soared above its high estimate to sell for $418,000 (est. $175/225,000). The silver portion of the auction was led by a French silver synagogue eternal lamp, which was created by Maurice Mayer in Paris circa 1855 and sold for $30,000 (estimate $20/30,000). 

Sotheby's auction of Israeli & International Art on 17 December brought the strong total of $3.3 million, well within its pre-sale estimate. The sale was led by Reuven Rubin's 1924 painting The Road to Meron, which sold for $634,000 (estimate $400/600,000). Twelve works spanning the entirety of Rubin's career found buyers, for a combined total of $1.6 million. A further highlight of the sale was one of Mordechai Ardon's most celebrated paintings, The Venus of Beersheba, which sold for $598,000 (estimate $450/650,000), and Pinchas Litvinovsky's White Horse, which soared above its high estimate to $125,000 (estimate $60/80,000). 

Sotheby's is the only international auction house to offer regular sales of Judaica, which it holds every December in New York alongside the annual Israeli & International Art auctions. Sotheby's has been entrusted with the most significant collections in this field – including The Michael & Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection, Property from the Collection of Michael and Doris Zagayski, A Collection from the Sassoon Family Estate, and Important Hebrew Manuscripts from the Montefiore Endowment – and has generated record prices for many significant objects ranging from Hebrew manuscripts to ceremonial objects and textiles. 

* The previous record total for any Judaica Auction was achieved at Sotheby's New York in 2013, when The Michael & Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection brought $8,541,645. 

** The previous auction record for a piece of Judaica was achieved at Christie's Paris in 2014, when a Hebrew Pentateuch printed in Bologna in 1482 sold for $3,850,679.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


My name is Aleksandr Sigalov. I am a Torah observant Jew.

Sorry that I post it here but I could not find your email. You can delete this after you read it.

I really enjoyed your website and your blog and I wanted to invite you to my blog and see if you would be interested in featuring it on yours. I can do the same in return. Here is the link: thedeserttabernacle.blogspot.com

I am having difficult time reaching Orthodox Jewish community due to the fact that many Orthodox Jews do not use internet or use it very little. However, they would benefit most from materials published on my blog. This is why I was hoping you can help me.

The current problem in Orthodox Jewish community caused by the fact that they do not follow Written Torah, the only Law that was given to Jews by God.

There is no pure form of Judaism today, as all sects and denominations have added to the Torah. Samaritans have Joshuah, Karaites have NK (Neviim, Ketuvim), Rabbinic Jews have Talmud and derivative works, e.t.c.

Not a single group follows the Law of God in its pure form, which is the Written Torah. They all follow man-made traditions and writings over the Written Torah.

This is why many young Orthodox Jews leave the community as they can clearly see that it is all bullshit that has no basis in reality. This is why Orthodox Jews are stuck in the past with radical views on issues like technology (internet, phones), female sexuality, science, e.t.c.

All violence in Israel has the same root as well. The Written Torah should be the law of the land and the 10 commandments should be Israel's constitution. For native and for the sojourner as Shemot 12:49 states. Democracy or any other form of government, including Rabbinic Torah (Rabbinic Theocracy), will never work in Israel. Only Written Torah will, as it was specifically designed for that land. Written Torah is extremely clear that the only way we can live in peace in Israel is if we would live by it. This is the absolute condition.

I am a former Orthodox Jew myself and I was pretty disillusioned by Orthodox Judaism. This is why I follow and live only by the Written Torah now as it is the only true word of our God. As a chosen people and as priests to nations we must set an example and represent the best of the best. This is not the case at this time.

The reason I am appealing to you is to establish a dialog and try to help spread real Torah knowledge, incur change in this horrible situation, as well as to call for Jewish unity everywhere under one true Law of God.

Let me know what you think.

Notable articles that I published on my blog recently:

My Letters to Presidents
Making Shewbread with Shelley Houser
Exact Value of the Omer
New and Proper Translation of Decalogue
Proper Translation of the 7th Commandment
New Modern Literal Translation of Genesis/Bereshit
Printable Mezuzot


Aleksandr Sigalov