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World’s oldest complete Hebrew Bible – at around 1,100 years old – sells for £30m

The Hebrew Bible, believed to be over 1,100 years old, and the oldest intact book in the world, was sold at auction for $38m (£30m).

Alfred H Moses, former US ambassador in Romania, bought the Codex Sassoon on Wednesday, a leatherbound volume with handwritten parchment.

The date of manufacture is believed to be between 880CE and 960CE.

Oxford Languages defines a codex as “an ancient manuscript in book form”.

File pic: the Codex Sassoon displayed at auction in New York. File pic

Auctioneers Sotheby’s stated that Mr Moses, representing the American Friends of ANU donated the artwork to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv.

According to the website of the organization, Anu is Hebrew for “we”.

The Bible will be added to the collection at the museum. It was on display in March, as part of an international tour.

Israel: More Information

David Solomon Sassoon was the son of a Jewish Iraqi businessman who owned a London home that he filled up with Jewish manuscripts.

The Bible was later owned by the British Rail pension fund until it was bought by the current seller, Swiss-Lebanese-Syrian billionaire Jacqui Safra, in 1989 for $3.19m (PS2.5m).

Hebrew Bibles are very similar to Christian Old Testaments, but they differ in many ways.

Sharon Liberman Mintz of Sotheby’s Judaica, a specialist in Judaica, said that the price was one of the highest ever paid for a Hebrew Bible sold at auction. “This price reflects the profound influence and significance of this Hebrew Bible which is a pillar of humanity indispensable”.

A rare copy of the US Constitution was sold in 2021 for $43m.

Bill Gates spent $31m (£25m) in 1994 on Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester.

File pic: In New York, the Codex Sassoon sold for PS30million. File pic

Ms Mintz expressed her “absolutely delight” at the sale, and said that “the Codex Sassoon is soon to make its grand and permanent comeback to Israel and be on display to the world”.

The Codex Sassoon, the oldest surviving manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, contains all 24 books, with punctuation and vowels. However, there are also older incomplete examples, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. These fragments are from the Hebrew Bible, and date back to just before or after Christ’s time, according to Biblical Archaeology Society.

The Codex Sinaiticus is a 4th-century Christian Bible that is part of the British Library. It is also the Codex Vaticanus in the Vatican.

St Cuthbert’s Gospel (which is the Gospel of St John from the New Testament) is also housed in the British Museum. It dates back to the 8th or 7th centuries.


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