$15k for a Jewish cookbook

It shouldn't be any great surprise that rare manuscripts associated with particular religions and ethnicities can be valuable.

Obvious examples would be the original Dead Sea Scrolls or other documents over two millennia old. There are other less extreme examples. But perhaps few people would immediately think of a Jewish cookbook.

But in fact a rare first edition of Esther Levy's 1871 Jewish Cookery Book is leading the way at Swann Auction Gallery's sale on Thursday - ahead of a sketch by Orville Wright. It was the first Jewish cookbook published in the United States and is on offer with an estimate of $12,000-15,000.

The early sections provide an overview of kosher dining, household economy, and table-setting. Later sections include household tips ("to cement broken china," "to revive the color of black silk"), lists of seasonable foods by month, and a two-page summary of the Jewish calendar.

Most of the recipes are impressionistic rather than giving precise measurements or even ingredients.

Alongside these is a somewhat more worn copy of the Book of Psalms in Hebrew - the first part of the Bible published in Hebrew in the United States, back in 1809. It has a guide price of $9,000-12,000.


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