Human Interest

Oldest known single-volume Hebrew Bible sells at NY auction for $38.1 million

New York, May 17 (EFE).- The Codex Sassoon, the earliest surviving example of a single-volume Hebrew Bible, sold at auction on Wednesday in New York City for $38.1 million.

Sotheby’s auction house, which had valued the bible at between $30 million and $50 million, said that the sales price achieved at the auction, which lasted five minutes, is the highest for any written document, although it did not break the record for an historical document.

The buyer was made known after the auction, ANU, the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel, whose representatives said that this was an “historic moment” and that the purchase would bring the bible “home.”

The selling price exceeded the $30.8 million paid for Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester manuscript in 1994, the auction house said, but it was below the $43.2 million paid in 2021 for a first edition of the US Constitution, the most ever paid anywhere in the world for a book or document.

Dating from about 900 A.C. and created in what is now Israel or Syria, the manuscript contains the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, including vowels, punctuation, accent marks and annotations.

The 24 books are divided into three parts – the Pentateuch, the Prophets and the Writings – and are the basis for Judaism, as well as Islam and Christianity, where they make up the Old Testament.

This particular example contains 792 pages and possibly was copied by a scribe over the course of one or two years on sheepskin parchment, a process that required a significant expenditure of resources and making it a luxury item of extreme rarity, according to Sotheby’s.

The bible passed from owner to owner until it was donated to the Makisin synagogue in northeastern Syria in the 13th century, but that site was destroyed at the end of the next century and the manuscript was delivered to a member of the community to preserve it until the rebuilding of the temple, although that construction was never undertaken.

The whereabouts of the Codex then were unknown for several centuries until it was placed on the market in 1929 and purchased by David Solomon Sassoon (1880-1942), the most prominent collector of Hebrew and Jewish manuscripts of the 20th century.

Another example of a Hebrew Bible exists that is more complete than the Codex Sassoon and is known as the Aleppo Codex, but the Codex Sassoon was recently submitted for carbon dating and other testing that confirmed that it is the older of the two, Sotheby’s said.

Before the New York auction, Sotheby’s sent the Codex on a world tour beginning in Israel, where it aroused great interest.

The Codex Sassoon bridges a critical gap in Jewish oral tradition and the modern Hebrew Bible.

The oldest copies of any Biblical texts ever found – known as the Dead Sea Scrolls – were discovered in caves near the Dead Sea in Israel in 1947.

EFE –/bp

Related Articles

Back to top button