12 February 2009

On Exhibit: $40 Million-Worth of Incomparable Hebrew Rarities

Sotheby's is handling the sale of the Valmadonna Trust Library, the collection of an elderly former diamond merchant, Jack V. Lunzer. This extraordinary private library of 13,000 Hebrew books and manuscripts is on display now through Thursday, the 19th. From the Sotheby's brochure:
The treasures of the Valmadonna Trust cannot be briefly summarized, but they include copies of almost half of all extant Hebrew incunables; the incomparable twelfth-century English manuscript Pentateuch; arguably the finest copy in the world of Daniel Bomberg's edition of the Babylonian Talmud; and scores of incredibly rare and even unique sixteenth-century imprints, many being luxury examples printed on vellum or colored paper.
I'm flabbergasted to learn that such a deep, comprehensive, and impossibly rare collection was assembled by a private individual. Again, according to Sotheby's, only the British Library, the Bibliothèque nationale, the Bodleian Library, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the National Library of Israel have "rival" Hebraica collections. Are there any deep-pocketed institutions out there willing to pay $40 million for this prize?

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