In an exciting development for history and art collectors alike, the Codex Sassoon, the oldest known complete Hebrew Bible, is set to be sold at an upcoming auction at Sotheby’s in New York.
The manuscript is thought to have been created around 1,100 years ago by a scribe in Egypt or the Levant and is missing only 12 pages. It is the earliest surviving example of a single manuscript containing all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible with punctuation, vowels, and accents.
The Codex Sassoon is expected to fetch a whopping $30m to $50m (£24m-£41m) at the auction, potentially making it the most expensive historical document ever sold at auction if it exceeds the $43.2m paid for a rare first-edition copy of the US Constitution two years ago.
The Hebrew Bible, which comprises 24 books divided into three parts, is considered to be the foundation of Jewish culture and is known as the Old Testament in Christianity.
The manuscript was acquired in 1929 by David Solomon Sassoon, who assembled the largest and most important private collection of Hebrew manuscripts in the world at his home in London. It has only been on public display once before in modern history – at the British Library in 1982. The Codex Sassoon has centuries of annotations and inscriptions that reveal its long history of ownership and safekeeping by various individuals and communities.
The week-long exhibition of the Codex Sassoon is currently underway at the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, and is expected to attract around 10,000 visitors. The exhibition is a rare and moving opportunity to see “the first Bible that survived history”, according to curator Orit Shaham Gover.