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World’s oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible to be auctioned

BIBLE HEBREW

Pascal Deloche / Godong | Ref:309

Daniel Esparza - published on 02/23/23

The Codex Sassoon, the world’s oldest Hebrew Bible, could become the most valuable historical document ever sold.

The Codex Sassoon is around 1,000 years old. A century older than the famed Leningrad Codex, the Sassoon is closer in age to the Aleppo Codex, which dates to around the year 930. However, the Codex Sassoon is incomplete: It’s missing nearly two-fifths of its pages. Still, this does not affect its value. According to Sotheby’s, the codex is about to become “the most valuable historical document ever sold at auction.”

Expected to be sold for somewhere between $30 and $50 million this coming May, the Codex Sassoon has a complex history. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “historians say a scribe wrote out the text on roughly 400 sheets of parchment in the late 9th or early 10th century. Eventually, the book landed at a synagogue in present-day Syria, which was then destroyed around the 13th or 14th century.”

Codex Sasson, a Bíblia mais antiga do mundo
The Codex Sassoon has long held a “revered and fabled place in the pantheon of surviving historic documents and is undeniably one of the most important and singular texts in human history.”

The codex was preserved, according to notes found in the codex itself, by Salama bin Abi al-Fakhr. He was supposed to keep the book safe until the synagogue was rebuilt. But reconstruction works never begun, and the codex disappeared for the next 600 years until it was “rediscovered” in 1929 by a British collector, David Solomon Sassoon, who bought it for £350.

The document remained with Sassoon’s heirs until 1978, when the British Rail Pension Fund purchased it for $320,000. It was bought in 1989 by Swiss collectior Jacqui Safra, who paid $3.19 million.

Sarah Kuta’s article in Smithsonian Magazine notes that the Codex Sassoon has long held a “revered and fabled place in the pantheon of surviving historic documents and is undeniably one of the most important and singular texts in human history,” quoting Richard Austin, Sotheby’s global head of books and manuscripts

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