Oldest Jewish Bible manuscript sold for record amount

Oldest Jewish Bible manuscript sold for record amount
Oldest Jewish Bible manuscript sold for record amount


Sold, at an auction organized Wednesday in New York, the oldest almost complete manuscript of the Jewish Bible known so far for 38.1 million dollars, to an American who donated it to the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

Sotheby’s auction house indicated that bidding on the manuscript took four minutes and took place between two bidders at Sotheby’s headquarters in Manhattan, and resulted in a record sale for the manuscript.

The last record amount recorded by a sale of a printed or handwritten historical document dates back to November 2021, when an original copy of the US Constitution from 1787 was sold for $43 million.

Sotheby’s said in a statement that the former US ambassador Alfred Moses and his family bought the manuscript of the Bible “for the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, and donated it to this institution so that it would become part of its world-famous collection.”

This religious book, which dates back to the tenth century AD or even to the end of the ninth century, was displayed before it was put up for auction at the Museum of the Jewish People on the campus of Tel Aviv University.

The sales deed shows that the manuscript was sold in the year 1000 and was kept in the Mackessin Synagogue in northeastern Syria until about the year 1400.

Israel or Syria

This copy was called the “Sassoon Codex” after its most famous owner, David Solomon Sassoon, who died in 1942. The manuscript contains the twenty-four books that make up the Jewish Bible (Tanakh), namely the Torah (or the first five books of Moses of the Bible ) And the division of the prophets “Niphim”, and the division of other writings “Ketuvim”. The missing of them shall not exceed 12 papers.

It also contains passages in Greek and Aramaic and has been remarkably well preserved.

“The Bible has an important role for anyone with even a passing connection to Western culture, and this manuscript is the first Bible that has survived in history,” said Orit Shaham-Gover, director of the museum, during the presentation of the manuscript.

Sotheby’s stated that the Bible was written in the year 900 in Israel or Syria.

The sales deed shows that the manuscript was sold in the year 1000 and was kept in the Makisin synagogue in northeastern Syria (the town of Marqada in present-day northeastern Syria) until about the year 1400.

Auction season

Sharon Mintz, a researcher in Jewish texts at Sotheby’s, said that this manuscript disappeared for more than 500 years and reappeared in 1929 when it was offered for sale to David Solomon Sassoon, one of the most prominent collectors of Hebrew manuscripts.

Orit Shaham-Gopher explained that the manuscript, which “traveled to different places throughout history,” had previously been shown to the public only once, decades ago, as it was shown by the British Library in London in 1982.

Examination of the dating of the “Sasun Codex” using “Carbon 14” showed that it is older and more complete than the Aleppo Codex, which was written in Galilee in the tenth century and returned to Israel in the fifties of the twentieth century after it was found in the Syrian city.

The manuscript is also believed to be older than the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) manuscript, which is the oldest surviving complete copy of the Hebrew Bible text, and is dated to the early 11th century.

The sale of the manuscript came within the auction season, which usually takes place in the spring, and witnesses the launch of hundreds of works by major players in the sector for several billion dollars within a few days in the prestigious neighborhoods of Manhattan.

On Tuesday evening, Sotheby’s, owned by French-Israeli media mogul Patrick Drahi, sold paintings in New York for $427 million, including a work by Gustav Klimt bought by a “Japanese collector” for $53.2 million and a painting by Rene Magritte for $42.3 million.

For its part, Christie’s, which is managed by the “Artemis” holding group owned by French billionaire Francois Pinault, sold, for $ 43.5 million, a painting by French painter Henri (Dounier) Rousseau, whose works are rarely offered at auctions.