Codex Sassoon: 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible sells for $38m at auction

A 1,100-year-old biblical manuscript becomes the most valuable book ever to go under the hammer

Sotheby's unveils The Codex Sassoon, which went up for auction in New York. AP
Powered by automated translation

A 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible that is one of the world's oldest surviving biblical manuscripts sold for $38 million in New York on Wednesday, making it the most valuable book or manuscript ever sold at auction.

The Codex Sassoon, a leather-bound, handwritten parchment volume containing a near-complete Hebrew Bible, was bought by former US ambassador to Romania Alfred Moses on behalf of the American Friends of ANU and donated to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Sotheby's said in statement.

Sotheby's Judaica specialist Sharon Liberman Mintz said the $38 million price tag, which includes the auction house’s fee, “reflects the profound power, influence and significance of the Hebrew Bible, which is an indispensable pillar of humanity”.

It is one of highest prices for a manuscript sold at auction. In 2021, a rare copy of the US Constitution sold for $43 million.

Ms Liberman Mintz said she was “absolutely delighted by today’s monumental result and that Codex Sassoon will shortly be making its grand and permanent return to Israel, on display for the world to see”.

The Codex Sassoon is believed to have been fabricated sometime between 880 and 960.

It got its name in 1929 when it was purchased by David Solomon Sassoon, a son of an Iraqi Jewish business magnate who filled his London home with a collection of Jewish manuscripts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: May 18, 2023, 6:53 AM