The Codex Sassoon, dating from the late 9th or early 10th century, sold for $38.1 million at Sotheby’s in New York on Wednesday. It is believed to be the earliest and most complete Hebrew Bible. The last manuscript to top sales records was Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester, which sold for $30.8 million in 1994, according to Sotheby’s.
The Codex Sassoon fell short of its high estimate of $50 million, however. Prior to the sale, it went on exhibit in the UK and Israel.
The Hebrew Bible is the foundation of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Scholars have long been aware of the codex named after renowned Judaica collector David Sassoon (1880-1942), but it has remained largely out of public view, Sotheby’s noted in a news release.
Mintz described the Codex Sassoon, which includes 792 parchment pages — made from animal skins — and weighs about 26.5 pounds, as a “lavish production that only the most wealthy could have afforded.”
The Codex Sassoon is believed to be the very first codex, or manuscript in book form, of the Hebrew Bible. In the centuries prior to its writing there were only portions or sections of biblical texts in scroll form — which came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. But these contained no verses, chapters or punctuation, according to Sotheby’s.
Jewish people in antiquity came to rely on oral tradition passed down through generations to understand and preserve the message of the Bible, the statement noted.
This document and the Aleppo Codex, housed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem since 1958, are the only two codices dating to the 10th century and comprising almost all of the Hebrew Bible.
But, according to the museum, the Aleppo Codex was badly damaged in a fire at the community’s synagogue in 1947, and today “no more than 295 of the original 487 leaves [pages] survived.” By contrast, the Sassoon codex is only missing 12 full pages, and therefore “is thus the earliest, most complete copy of the Hebrew Bible extant,” according to Sotheby’s.
According to CNN