$38.1M Hebrew Bible Becomes Most Valuable Book Ever Sold

In a groundbreaking auction held in New York, Sotheby’s has achieved a remarkable feat by selling the Codex Sassoon, an ancient Hebrew bible dating back to the late ninth to the early tenth century, for an astounding $38.1 million.

This sale has established the Codex Sassoon as the most valuable book or manuscript ever sold at auction. The acquisition of this historic artefact by Ambassador Alfred H. Moses of Washington, DC, and the Moses family on behalf of the American Friends of ANU, and its subsequent gifting to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel, further adds to the significance of this momentous event.

Not only does this auction set a new record for the most valuable book ever sold, but it also marks a milestone for the manuscript category and any item of Judaica ever sold.

The Remarkable Auction

After being absent from auction houses for over three decades, the Codex Sassoon finally resurfaced, captivating the attention of collectors and enthusiasts worldwide. Its sale attracted two determined bidders engaged in a riveting 4-minute bidding battle, ultimately resulting in a historic hammer price of $38.1 million.

$38.1M Hebrew Bible Becomes Most Valuable Book Ever Sold

This exceptional achievement surpasses the previous record set in 1994 when Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester manuscript fetched $30.8 million. The value placed on the Codex Sassoon stands as a testament to its immense historical and cultural significance.

A Journey through Exhibitions

Before its highly anticipated auction, the Codex Sassoon embarked on a journey through several prestigious exhibitions. March witnessed its public exhibition at the ANU as part of Sotheby’s international touring exhibition, which included stops at Sotheby’s galleries in London and Los Angeles, as well as Southern Methodist University’s Bridwell Library in Dallas, Texas. Throughout these exhibitions, including the display at Sotheby’s New York, the Codex Sassoon captivated the imagination of more than 20,000 visitors.

$38.1M Hebrew Bible Becomes Most Valuable Book Ever Sold

The Enduring Influence of the Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew bible has long held a position of utmost importance as a cornerstone of civilizations and communities worldwide. Arguably the most influential book in human history, the Codex Sassoon, being the earliest and most complete Hebrew bible still in existence after more than a millennium, carries immeasurable significance as one of the most crucial religious sources discovered from ancient times.

It offers profound insights into the development and proliferation of Abrahamic civilizations, providing a meticulous record of the canonical Hebrew Scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim.

“Today’s record-breaking result directly reflects the profound power, influence, and significance of the Hebrew Bible, which is an indispensable pillar of humanity. For over a year, I have had the distinct pleasure of researching and studying this historical text, and I am absolutely delighted by today’s monumental result and that Codex Sassoon will shortly be making its grand and permanent return to Israel, on display for the world to see.” 

Sharon Liberman Mintz, Sotheby’s Senior Specialist for Judaica, Books & Manuscripts

Conclusion

The recent sale of the Codex Sassoon at Sotheby’s for a staggering $38.1 million has shattered records, making it the most valuable book or manuscript ever sold at auction.

Its acquisition by Ambassador Alfred H. Moses and subsequent gifting to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People marks a pivotal moment in history. As the earliest and most complete Hebrew bible extant, the Codex Sassoon holds an unparalleled position of influence, shedding light on the development and dissemination of ancient religious traditions. With its immense historical and cultural significance, the Codex Sassoon has rightfully taken its place as a priceless treasure in the world of literature and Judaica.

Images: Sotheby’s

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