Most Complete Early Bible Manuscript Sells For $38 Million

If you love books, you likely have at least one that is a prized possession. Perhaps it is an original copy of your favorite book, or it may just be an old book that has stood the test of time.

David Solomon Sassoon is someone who understands the beauty of old books, and he collected Jewish manuscripts. He also purchased a Hebrew Bible in 1929 that was then named the Codex Sassoon, after that collector.

Photo: Youtube/ANU – Museum of the Jewish People

More recently, the same manuscript, which is a collection of 24 books, including the five books of Moses, was sold at auction. The Codex Sassoon is one of the most complete of all ancient Bibles, being from the 10th century, and it sold for more than $38 million.

There are 792 pages in this collection that are bound in a more modern binding that includes Sassoon’s crest. With only 12 leaves of text missing, the entire collection weighs 26 pounds.

Some of the pages have been damaged over the years and there were new pieces added in. They ensured that the text was recopied meticulously.

Photo: Youtube/ANU – Museum of the Jewish People

In the 10th century, when this copy of the Tanakh was replicated, scribes would copy it by hand. They made use of the top and bottom margins, where they would leave notes to ensure that the text was not changed over time.

That is one of the most exciting parts of the Codex Sassoon. Those Masorah notes can still be read in the margins.

This is not the oldest available copy of the Tanakh, but it is an important piece of history. Other texts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, date back thousands of years.

The Sassoon text also mentions the Aleppo Codex, which was created around 930.

Sotheby’s, which was responsible for auctioning off the text, said: “Codex Sassoon is approximately contemporary with the aforementioned Aleppo Codex but is significantly more complete.”

A senior Judaica specialist at Sotheby’s, Sharon Liberman Mintz, spoke about the ‘monumental transformation’ that was revealed through this text.

She said: “The biblical text in book format marks a critical turning point in how we perceive the history of the Divine word across thousands of years and is a transformative witness to how the Hebrew Bible has influenced the pillars of civilization — art, culture, law, politics — for centuries.”

More information is included in the Bible about those who previously owned it. Eventually, the book was kept at the synagogue of Makisin, but that town, which is in modern-day Syria, was destroyed some 600 years ago.

Fortunately, the Codex Sassoon survived the destruction, and a note was included to put the Bible back in its place after the synagogue was rebuilt.

For centuries, the manuscript continued to pass from one hand to another, but eventually, it came to Sotheby’s. It had been purchased in 1989 by Jacqui Safra and was put on the auction block.

A former US ambassador, Alfred H. Moses, purchased it at auction for $38.1 million. It is the most expensive manuscript of all time.

They plan on donating the Bible to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, where it will be put on exhibit.

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