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Lot 123: Large Collection of Books, Booklets and Leaves Printed in Calcutta (India) - 19th and 20th Centuries - R. David Sassoon Collection

Auction 53 - Rare and Important Items

by Kedem Public Auction House Ltd

November 15, 2016

Jerusalem, Israel

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Description: Large varied collection of books, booklets and various printed matter, printed in Calcutta, India, encompassing an entire century, from the first Hebrew printings in Calcutta in 1840, until the mid-20th century. A rare wide-ranging collection composed of more than 100 items, including books, notebooks, single leaves and calendars. The collection presents the history of the Hebrew printing in Calcutta beginning in 1840. It contains most of the first books printed in the city during the 1840s (this collection contains 22 of the first 26 books printed in Calcutta by R. Elazar Iraki. No. 1, 3-7, 9-10, 12-17, 19-26 in the Ya'ari list) and about half of the books ever printed in Calcutta. Some are printed by lithography. The source of this collection is in the library of the renowned collector Rabbi David Sassoon, which is the primary basis for the bibliography record of Calcutta printings, prepared by the researcher and bibliographer Avraham Ya'ari in his book Hebrew Printing in the East (Vol. 2, Jerusalem 1940, Calcutta). This collection also contains many items which do not appear in the Ya'ari list. The collection contains over 100 items: books, booklets and pamphlets calendars, single leaves and printed cards. A detailed list is available upon request. Items for example: · Shir HaShirim, with Targum Yonatan ben Uziel and Judeo-Arabic translation. Calcutta, [1840]. Ya'ari, no. 1. The first book in lithograph printing in Calcutta. That same year, Sha'arei Kedusha was printed [regular printing] by R. Elazar Iraki. According to Ya'ari, Shir HaShirim was printed before the Iraki printing press was established. Since that time, no other lithograph book was printed in Calcutta until 1871. · Tractate Avot, with Judeo-Arabic translation. Calcutta, [1844]. Ya'ari, no. 15. Printed on bluish paper. · Raziel HaMalach. Calcutta, [1845]. Ya'ari, no. 17. Printed on bluish paper. · Imrei Shabbat, "to clarify the prohibition of riding the steam engines of the railway on Shabbat…", by R. Chaim Ya'akov HaCohen [Feinstein] "emissary of the city of Safed". Calcutta, [1874]. Ya'ari, no. 29. · Covenin Beit HaKnesset Magen David Tachbatz [regulation of the Magen David synagogue in Judeo-Arabic]. Calcutta, [1894]. Ya'ari, no. 82.· Sefer HaAchlama, interpretation of dreams. Calcutta, 1844. Lithographic printing of a manuscript. Ya'ari, no. 117. · Lithograph leaf, with the piyyut Melech HaMefo'ar B'Rom Hodo…", by "Beit HaKnesset Magen David Tachbatz on Rosh Chodesh Tevet 1924". Printed in honor of R. Eliyahu Moshe Dweck HaKohen on his fiftieth anniversary serving as rabbi of the Magen David synagogue in Calcutta. Ya'ari, no. 119. · Lithograph leaf, printed in golden ink, with the piyyut "E-l Rachum Shemecha…". Ya'ari, no. 120. [Calcutta, without note of year]. · Lithograph booklet, Haftarah of Tisha B'Av, with Judeo-Arabic translation, by "Shalom Yehoshua Iraki HaCohen teacher in Calcutta". [Year unknown]. Ya'ari, no. 123. · Chart for teaching the Hebrew Alphabet to children, with the verses of Shema Yisrael, etc. Lithograph. [Calcutta, 1890]. Ya'ari, no. 124. · "Tachel Shana U'Virchoteha" (The year and its blessing shall begin), two lithographs, with the simanim of Rosh Hashana eve. [Calcutta, without year]. Ya'ari, no. 132-133. · "Nice effective prayer to recite before and after kindling Shabbat and festival candles". [Calcutta, without year]. Lithograph. Ya'ari, no. 134. · Prayer booklets for various occasions (in honor of Queen Victoria, upon the coronation of King George, etc.). · Cards with the timetables for prayers in the synagogue. · Large-format wall calendars. · And more. A Jew of Yemenite origin named R. Elazar Iraki HaCohen was the first to establish a Hebrew printing press in Calcutta. His printing press was founded in 1840 and continued until 1856. The books he printed are exceptionally elegant, even in comparison to Hebrew books printed in Europe, and even more so considering that they were printed in a small printing press in a remote setting. It seems that he himself cast the letters, and indeed the shape of his letters differs from European printings. As a Yemenite, he attempted to print books by Yemenite sages, including halachic books of the Maharitz which were first printed in R. Iraki's printing press, and the poems of Yemenite poets printed in Sefer HaPizmonim. R. Elazar Iraki was not only a craftsman; he was also a Torah scholar who edited, proofread and corrected the works which he printed. Among other works, he translated the Passover Haggadah which he printed and added 22 of his piyyutim to Sefer HaPizmonim. For his printing device which appears on his books, he designed priestly hands with the name Iraki or "Iraki Katz" (Cohen Tzedek). Iraki ceased printing in 1856, lacking sufficient demand for his books. Most of the books printed by Iraki are present in this collection. The craft of Hebrew printing was renewed only in 1871 by the printer Yechezkel ben Saliman Chanin, who printed a total of 10 books (including two books by the Safed emissary Rabbi Chaim Ya'akov HaCohen Feinstein). This collection contains six of the books printed by Chanin. In 1881, the rabbi of the Magen David synagogue in Calcutta, R. Eliyahu son of Moshe Dweck HaKohen, established his own printing press. Since he was a Cohen and considered himself the progeny of the first printer Iraki, he designed a printer's device similar to the shape of the priestly hands designed by Iraki. He printed a total of six books. This collection contains four of his books. In 1888, Rabbi Shlomo (Solomon) Tawina of Baghdad established his printing press in Calcutta. R. Shlomo Tawina was an outstanding Torah scholar and before he reached India, he printed books in Baghdad. He printed many books, among them many of his own works. His printing press was the last large press in India and its operations ceased in ca. 1902. Later, only various booklets were printed in Calcutta. This collection contains 27 books printed by Tawina. Parallel to these established printings, several folk lithographs were printed in Calcutta. As early as 1840, the year of the establishment of the first Hebrew printing press, Isaac ben Jacob of Baghdad printed a lithograph of Shir HaShirim with Targum Yonatan and a Judeo-Arabic translation. After the Iraki printing press was founded, lithographs were unnecessary and were renewed only in 1871. Later, more lithographs were printed throughout the years. This collection contains 11 lithographs. 73 books, booklets and pamphlets, 20 calendars (cardboard cards, booklets and broadside calendars), 8 single leaves (some lithographs, one torn and mostly lacking), 7 cards with timetable for prayers. Total of 108 items. Size and condition varies. Some have damages or lacking leaves. A detailed list is available upon request. Provenance: Sassoon family collection.

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