1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible fetches $38M at New York auction
A 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible that is one of the world’s oldest surviving biblical manuscripts sold for $38 million in New York on Wednesday.
The Codex Sassoon, a leather-bound, handwritten parchment volume containing a nearly complete Hebrew Bible, was purchased by former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Alfred H. Moses on behalf of the American Friends of ANU and donated to ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, where it will join the collection, Sotheby’s said in statement.
The manuscript was exhibited at the ANU Museum in March as part of a worldwide tour before the auction.
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Sotheby’s Judaica specialist Sharon Liberman Mintz said the $38 million price tag, which includes the auction house’s fee, “reflects the profound power, influence, and significance of the Hebrew Bible, which is an indispensable pillar of humanity.”
It’s one of highest prices for a manuscript sold at auction. In 2021, a rare copy of the U.S. constitution sold for $43 million. Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester sold for $31 million in 1994, or around $60 million in today’s dollars.
Mintz said she was “absolutely delighted by today’s monumental result and that Codex Sassoon will shortly be making its grand and permanent return to Israel, on display for the world to see.”
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The Codex Sassoon is believed to have been fabricated sometime between 880 and 960.
It got its name in 1929 when it was purchased by David Solomon Sassoon, a son of an Iraqi Jewish business magnate who filled his London home with his collection of Jewish manuscripts.
Sassoon’s estate was broken up after he died and the biblical codex was sold by Sotheby’s in Zurich in 1978 to the British Rail Pension Fund for around $320,000, or $1.4 million in today’s dollars.
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The pension fund sold the Codex Sassoon 11 years later to Jacqui Safra, a banker and art collector, bought it in 1989 for $3.19 million ($7.7 million in today’s dollars). Safra was the seller on Wednesday.