World’s oldest Hebrew Bible sold at auction for a whopping $38.1 million

It is believed to be the most complete Bible ever.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The Codex Sassoon.jpg
The Codex Sassoon.


A 1,000-year old Hebrew Bible described as “one of the most important and singular texts in human history” has been sold at auction for a record-breaking $38.1 million.

This is according to a report by CNN.

The Codex Sassoon was auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York on Wednesday. Its sellers claimed it was the earliest and most complete Hebrew Bible. 

It did however fall short of its initial estimate of $50 million.

Sharon Mintz, Sotheby’s senior Judaica specialist, books and manuscripts, told CNN ahead of the auction that “this is the most important document to come to auction ever.”

Mintz further described the Codex Sassoon as a “lavish production that only the most wealthy could have afforded.” It was made from animal skins which could be creepy but at the time of its production was a sign of wealth.

The book’s previous owner purchased the codex in 1989 and was “delighted to be able to share it with the world,” Mintz said.

Richard Austin, Sotheby’s global head of books and manuscripts, also said in a release that the “Codex Sassoon has long held a revered and fabled place in the pantheon of surviving historic manuscripts and is undeniably one of the most important and singular texts in human history.”

Annotations and inscriptions

It’s not just the printed material that has historical value. The book also boasts hand-written annotations and inscriptions added over the years.

One such note from the early 11th century hints at a sale by Khalaf ben Abraham, perhaps in Israel or Syria, to a man called Isaac ben Ezekiel al-Attar, who later gave the book to his two sons.

It stayed with them until the 13th century when it was dedicated to the synagogue of Makisin (Markada in northeastern Syria today).

At that point, the book was rebound and inscribed with the words “consecrated to the Lord God of Israel to the synagogue of Makisin.”

Makisin was later destroyed and the codex was entrusted to a community member called Salama bin Abi al-Fakhr who held on to it until it was acquired by Sassoon in 1929, according to CNN.

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