Ninth century Hebrew bible to be auctioned

Ninth century Hebrew bible to be auctioned


Codex Sassoon valued at $30 to $50 million.

The Codex Sassoon (Photo: Sothebys)

A 1,100 year old Hebrew bible is to be sold at auction with a reserve price of $30- $50 million (£25 – £42 million). The ninth century book, called the Codex Sassoon is the most valuable historical manuscript to appear at auction.

It will be auctioned in New York in May, and on display at Sotheby’s in London next week, the first time it has been seen in public for decades.

“In Codex Sassoon, a monumental transformation in the history of the Hebrew Bible is revealed, bringing to light the full story of the Hebrew Bible that had previously never been presented in book form. Codex Sassoon is a transformative witness to how the Hebrew Bible has influenced the pillars of civilization–art, culture, law, politics—for centuries, ” said Sharon Mintz, Sotheby’s senior Judaica specialist.

The codex is named for its prominent modern owner, David Solomon Sassoon (1880-1942), who assembled the most significant private collection of Judaica and Hebraica manuscripts in the world.  Sassoon had a special affinity for Bibles in particular, and some of the most valuable and important items in his library belonged to this genre of Hebrew literature. His collection catalogue, Ohel Dawid, begins and ends with biblical material, and Sassoon 1053 is its very last entry, giving pride of place to this monument of medieval Jewish civilization.

The Codex now comes to auction from collector Jacqui Safra, whose decades-long ownership produced the definitive scientific evidence, through authoritative carbon dating, which originates the text to the late ninth to early tenth century, confirming scholars earlier research.

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