A leather-bound, handwritten Hebrew Bible believed to be about 1,100 years old has sold for $38.1 million (€35.1 million) in New York, auction house Sotheby’s said on Wednesday.
The Codex Sassoon price surpassed the $30.8 million paid in 1994 for Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester manuscript but was below the world-record $43.2 million paid in 2021 for the first edition of the US Constitution.
Its price tag “reflects the profound power, influence, and importance of the Hebrew Bible, which is a vital pillar of humanity,” said Sotheby’s Judaica specialist Sharon Liberman Mintz.
Codex Sassoon to get to the ANU Museum
Mintz said he was “absolutely delighted with today’s great result and that the Codex Sassoon will soon make its grand and permanent return to Israel, displayed for the world to see.”
Former US ambassador and president of the American Jewish Committee Alfred H. Moses purchased the codex for the non-profit American Friends of ANU. It will be donated to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel.
“The Hebrew Bible is the most influential book in history and contains the basis of Western civilization. I am happy to know that it belongs to the Jews,” said Moses.
Before the auction, which Sotheby’s said lasted 4 minutes and between two buyers, the manuscript was exhibited at the ANU Museum in March as part of a worldwide tour.
Who owned the Codex Sassoon then?
The codex, named after its former owner David Solomon Sassoon, is believed to have been written between 880 and 960.
Sassoon, who amassed a private collection of ancient Jewish texts, acquired it in 1929. After his death, Sassoon’s estate was disbanded, and Sotheby’s sold the codex in 1978 to the British Rail Pension Fund for about $320,000, or $1.4 million in today’s dollars. .
In 1989, the pension fund sold it for $3.19 million ($7.7 million in today’s dollars) to banker and art collector Jacqui Safra, who sold it on Wednesday.
According to Sotheby’s, Safra recently had the manuscript carbon dated to confirm that it is older than the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex, two other major early Hebrew Bibles.
fb/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)