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Oldest near-complete Bible sells for $38m at auction

by Kelly Valencia

The world’s oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible has been bought for $38.1m (£30.6m) at Sotheby’s New York.

The item has become the most valuable manuscript sold at auction.

Bought by US lawyer and former ambassador Alfred Moses for the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Israel, the book is thought to have been written 1,100 years ago.

Known as the Codex Sassoon, the Bible is only missing 12 leaves and is composed of 24 books divided into three parts: the Pentateuch (the Torah), the Prophets (the Nevi’im) and the Writings (the Ketuvim).

"The Hebrew Bible is the most influential in history and constitutes the bedrock of Western civilisation," Moses said in a statement.

"I rejoice in knowing that it belongs to the Jewish people. It was my mission, realising the historic significance of Codex Sassoon, to see it resides in a place with global access to all people."

Moses bid surpassed Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates' 1994 purchase of the Codex Leicester, Leonardo da Vinci's scientific notebook, for $30.8 million but fell short of the record for a historical document sold at auction, a first-edition printed copy of the US Constitution sold for $43.2m in 2021.

Swiss investor Jacqui Safra was the Bible’s most recent owner. He bought it in a London auction in 1989, for £2 million ($2.5 million).


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