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World's oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible heads to auction

By Agence France-Presse Published Feb 16, 2023 9:13 pm

A Hebrew Bible more than 1,000 years old is set to be sold at auction in New York for up to an estimated $50 million (around P2.7 billion), Sotheby's announced Wednesday.

The Codex Sassoon—which dates to the late ninth to early tenth century—is the earliest, most complete Hebrew Bible ever discovered.

It will become the most expensive historical document or manuscript to ever go under the hammer when Sotheby's puts it up for auction in May.

"(It) is undeniably one of the most important and singular texts in human history," said Richard Austin, Sotheby's global head of books and manuscripts.

The Codex Sassoon is one of only two codices, or manuscripts, containing all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible to have survived into the modern era.

It is substantially more complete than the Aleppo Codex and older than the Leningrad Codex, two other famous early Hebrew Bibles, Sotheby's said.

The manuscript bridges the Dead Sea Scrolls—which date back as early as the third century BC—and today's modernly accepted form of the Hebrew Bible.

It is named for previous owner David Solomon Sassoon (1880-1942) who assembled the most significant private collection of ancient Jewish texts in the world.

The document is being auctioned for the first time in more than 30 years, with a pre-sale estimate of between $30 million and $50 million.

In November 2021, Sotheby's sold one of the first prints of the US Constitution for $43 million (P2.3 billion), a record price for a historical manuscript. (AFP)