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The oldest nearly complete Hebrew Bible sold at auction for $38.1 million

A Bible believed to date from the late 9th or early 10th century, known as the Codex Sassoon, was bought Wednesday for $38.1 million.

The Codex Sassoon According to Sotheby’s, the most valuable book ever sold at auction. The record-breaking price surpassed the 1994 sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester manuscript, which sold for $30.8 million.

US Ambassador to Romania Alfred Moses purchased the Codex Sassoon on behalf of the American Friends of ANU. It is being gifted to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

“My goal was to realize the historical significance of the Codex Sassoon, living it in a place where all people have universal access,” Moses said in a press release. “That place in my heart and mind was the land of Israel, the birthplace of Judaism, where the Hebrew Bible originated. In Israel at ANU, it will be preserved for generations to come as the centerpiece and jewel of the entire and extensive exhibition. And the presence of the Jewish story.”


During an auction at Sotheby’s, the auctioneer takes bids for the Codex Sasson.


Codex Sassoon contains 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, but leaves 12 missing. The Bible was owned and operated by private individuals for centuries before being donated to a synagogue in northeastern Syria in the 13th century, according to Sotheby’s.

The synagogue was destroyed in the late 14th century, but the Bible was preserved by a member of the community. The Bible was resurrected in 1929 and offered for sale to David Solomon Sassoon, a scholar with a collection of Hebrew manuscripts. He bought the Bible and named it Codex Sassoon for him.

The Bible was displayed around the world before the auction, according to Sotheby’s. Sharon Lieberman Mintz, a Judaica expert and senior consultant at the auction house, had the opportunity to study Codex Sassoon for over a year.

“Today’s record-breaking results directly reflect the profound power, influence and significance of the Hebrew Bible, an essential pillar of humanity,” he said in a statement.

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Aliza Chasan

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