(May 17, 2023 / JNS) The oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible, Codex Sassoon, which dates to around the year 900, has beaten beat da Vinci’s Codex Leicester as the most expensive book ever sold at auction.
Tel Aviv’s ANU–Museum of the Jewish People bought Codex Sassoon for $33.5 million (£26m) at Sotheby’s auction house in New York.
Alfred H. Moses, a former U.S. ambassador to Romania and active member of the Georgetown Jewish community, and his family purchased the Hebrew manuscript on behalf of the American Friends of ANU and gifted it to the museum, according to a press release from the auction house. Moses is chair of the museum’s international board of governors.
“The hammer fell after a four-minute bidding battle between two determined bidders,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.
“It feels right. For Alfred Moses to buy it and donate it to the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, it feels right for the manuscript to return to the seat of the Masoretic tradition, for the Aleppo Codex and ‘the Brother of Aleppo’ to rest so close to one another,” Herschel Hepler, associate curator of Hebrew manuscripts at Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., told JNS. “It’s a good day in the world of Jewish books, Jewish culture, and public access.”
“Very pleased that Codex Sassoon. which sold for $33.5 million at Sotheby’s today, will go to the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. Thank you to Alfred Moses and his family for making this happen,” tweeted Haim Gottschalk, Judaica librarian at the Library of Congress.
The volume had been expected to sell for between $30 million and $50 million