English collector's rare Judaica sell for nearly £250,000

Some of the last volumes from Jack Lunzer's Valmadonna Trust Library go to auction


A rare edition of a work of Maimonides fetched more than three times its estimated value as some of the last books of a famous Judaica library compiled by an English collector went on sale in New York at the end of last week.

More than 100 volumes from the Valmadonna Trust Library that once belonged to Jack Lunzer of London were sold for over $315,000 (£246,000) at auction by Kestenbaum’s in New York.

A mid-16th century Hebrew translation from Italy of the most celebrated work of medieval Jewish philosophy, Maimonides’s The Guide for the Perplexed – which was originally written in Arabic – went for $40,000 (£31,150), considerably more than the estimated $10,000-$15,000 catalogue price.

A 15th-century Hebrew translation of an Arabic medieval treatise sold for $60,000 (£46,730).

But the most valuable lot on offer, an Italian prayerbook on vellum from 1469, which was listed at $200,000-$300,000 (£156,000-£234,000), was not bought.

The Valmadonna collection, built up over six decades by Mr Lunzer, who died early last year aged 92, was considered the world’s most significant private Judaica library, comprising 13,000 volumes, including some of the earliest printed Hebrew books.

It had long been Mr Lunzer’s wish that it remain intact and the collection was finally acquired by the National Library of Israel last year for an unspecified sum. Some of the books will go on display when the National Library’s new building opens in two years.

A set of 16th century Talmuds printed by Daniel Bomberg in Venice, which had been part of the collection, sold for around £7.5 million in 2015.

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