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1,100 year-old Hebrew Bible sells for $38 million

According to the news from AP, a 1,100 year-old Hebrew Bible sells for $38 million in a New York Auction. The said bible is one of the world’s oldest surviving biblical manuscripts.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Romania, Alfred H. Moses purchased the Codex Sassoon, a leather-bound, handwritten parchment volume containing a nearly complete Hebrew Bible. He purchased the said bible on behalf of the American friends of ANU and donated it to ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, where it will join the collection.

Codex Sassoon
Codex Sassoon

The manuscript was exhibited at the ANU museum in March 2023 as part of a worldwide tour before the auction.

According to Sotheby’s Judaica specialist Sharon Liberman Mintz, 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.”

Based on history, the Hebrew Bible is one of the 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 $31 million in 1994, or around $60 million in today’s dollars.

Sharon Mintz said that she was absolutely delighted with the monumental result and that Code Sasson will shortly be making its grand and permanent return to Israel, on display for the world to see.

The Codex Sassoon is believed to have been fabricated sometime between 880 and 960.

The name Codex Sassoon was named after the purchase of David Solomon Sassoon, son of an Iraqi Jewish business magnate who filled his London home with this 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.

The pension fund sold the Codex Sassoon 11 years later to Jacqui Safra, a banker and art collector, who bought it in 1989 for $3.19 million ($7.7 million in today’s dollars). Safra was the seller on the said New York auction.

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