Maimonides text part of $11 million Judaica sale

By Anna Sheinman, January 15, 2013
Lord Mayor's dish

Lord Mayor's dish

You could say this was the most expensive Jewish doctor’s prescription in the world.

Sotheby’s New York has announced a sale of over £6.7m worth of Judaica, including a 15th-century copy of Moses Maimonides’s text, Mishneh Torah.

The copy of the philosopher and doctor’s work, called the Frankfurt Mishneh Torah, is the highlight of this extraordinary collection of over 500 pieces. It dates to the mid-1400s and is one of only two books of its quality from that period.

The text is part of a collection built up over 30 years by American
philanthropists Michael and Judy Steinhardt.

Mr Steinhardt, a former hedge fund manager who founded Taglit-Birthright Israel, which sends young Jewish adults on heritage trips to Israel, said: “Now, at 72, it is time for the collection to be passed on to a new generation.”

Also in the sale is an ornate silver dish, originally presented by Bevis Marks Synagogue, the UK’s oldest synagogue, to the Lord Mayor of London in 1719, heaped with sweets.

Estimated to be worth around £312,000, the dish was a sign of the Jewish community’s appreciation for their freedoms in London at a time when they were confined to ghettos or denied residence in many European cities.

Bevis Marks’s archivist, Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira, explained that similar gifts of silver were given to the Lord Mayor every year between 1680 and 1780. This is the first known sale of one of the pieces in almost 100 years.

Senior consultant for Judaica at Sotheby’s New York, Sharron Liberman-Mintz, said that the 347-page Frankfurt Mishneh Torah was probably written down by a scribe named Nechemiah.

The book is the second of two volumes; the first is kept in the Vatican. This volume is valued at £2.8-£3.7 million. The New York auction will take place on April 29.

Last updated: 1:45pm, January 17 2013