The record-breaking Hebrew Bible: The Oldest sold for 38 million

The record-breaking Hebrew Bible: The Oldest sold for 38 million

The oldest nearly complete Hebrew Bible, known as the Codex Sassoon, which is about 1,100 years old (dating to the late 9th or early 10th century), has been sold at Sotheby’s New York auction tonight for $38,126,000 (€35,170,000). The precious manuscript was put up for sale by Swiss financier and collector Jacob (Jackie) Safra, heir to a Syrian-Lebanese-Swiss banking fortune, who had owned it since 1989. The manuscript was bought at auction, after a bidding. It took just under ten minutes, by Alfred Moses, a lawyer with Covington & Burling who was formerly the US ambassador to Romania during President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Moses, as Adnkronos reports, will donate the Codex of Sassoon to the Anno Museum – the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. “My mission was to recognize the historical significance of the Codex of Sassoon and to ensure that it is kept in a place accessible to all,” Moses said in a statement. This Bible set a new record: it became the most valuable manuscript ever sold at auction worldwide, eclipsing the Leonardo da Vinci Leicester Codex that Bill Gates bought in 1994 for $30.8 million. However, the amount made by Codex Sassoon falls short of the record for a landmark historical document set by collector Ken Griffin in 2021, when he paid $43 million to get an original print of the US Constitution.

The Bible sold at a record price includes all 24 books of the Jewish Bible, minus about 12 leaves, including the first 10 chapters of Genesis. Of the manuscript’s 792 pages, only about 15 chapters are missing. The Bible scrolls are named after businessman, philanthropist, and collector of Hebrew manuscripts David Solomon Sassoon, its former owner. According to Sotheby’s, the copy predates the first fully completed Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad Codex, by about a century. The Aleppo Codex preserved in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is older than the Sassoon Codex but approximately two-fifths of its pages are missing. Codex Sassoon contains the Masoretic notes of early medieval scholars on how words from the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible were written, read, and accented. It also contains more than a thousand years of annotations, texts, comments, and ownership records.

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