The world’s oldest and most complete Hebrew Bible sold for $38.1 million on Wednesday, Sotheby’s said, one of the highest prices ever for a book or document sold at auction.
Wednesday’s winning bid for the “Sassoon Code” was made through a gift from Alfred H. Moses, former US ambassador and president of the American Jewish Committee, who will present it to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel.
That’s more than the $30.8 million it paid in 1994 for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Leicester Code” manuscript, Sotheby’s said. Still, it was less than the $50 million Sotheby’s estimated in February and the $43.2 million paid in 2021 for the first edition of the US Constitution.
The Sassoon Codex, which was written around 900, is named for the previous owner, David Solomon Sassoon, who acquired the Bible in 1929 and assembled one of the most important private collections of Jewish and Hebrew manuscripts of the 20th century. Did.
The document provides an important link that connects the Jewish oral tradition with the modern Hebrew Bible. It wasn’t until recently that the former owner, collector Jackie Safra, had the Sassoon Codex carbon dated, confirming that it was older than the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex, two other major Hebrew Bibles, according to Sotheby’s.
The auction house said the Sassoon Code was dated to the late 9th or early 10th century for both scientific and epigraphic reasons and contains almost the entirety of the Bible. The oldest known copies of the text of the Bible were the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the caves in 1947.
The Hebrew Bible consists of 24 books organized into three parts: the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Epistles. Beginning with the Book of Genesis and ending with the Chronicles, the Hebrew Bible is central to Judaism as well as Christianity and Islam.