A 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible sells for $38 million at NYC auction : NPR
NEW YORK — A 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible that is one of the world’s oldest surviving biblical manuscripts was sold for $38 million in New York on Wednesday.
The Codex Sassoon, a handwritten, leather-bound parchment volume containing a nearly complete Hebrew Bible, was purchased by former US Ambassador to Romania Alfred H. Moses on behalf of the American Friends of ANU and donated to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People at Tel. Aviv, where he will join the collection, Sotheby’s said in a statement.
The manuscript was exhibited at the ANU Museum in March as part of a worldwide tour ahead of the auction.
Sotheby’s Judaica specialist Sharon Liberman Mintz said the $38 million price, which includes the auction house’s fee, “reflects the profound power, influence, and significance of the Bible Hebrew, which is an indispensable pillar of humanity”.
It is one of the highest prices for a manuscript sold at auction. In 2021, a rare copy of the US constitution was sold for $43 million. Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester was sold for $31 million in 1994, or about $60 million in today’s dollars.
Mintz said she was “absolutely delighted with today’s monumental result and that Codex Sassoon will soon 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.
It got its name in 1929 when it was bought by David Solomon Sassoon, the son of an Iraqi Jewish business magnate who filled his house in London with his collection of Jewish manuscripts.
Sassoon’s estate was broken up after his death and the biblical codex was sold by Sotheby’s in Zurich in 1978 to the British Rail Pension Fund for about $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 Wednesday.