New York auction house Sotheby’s sold the Soon Codex, one of the oldest and most complete copies of the Bible, on Wednesday. The book, which fetched $38 million, will go to the Museum of the Jewish People in Israel, The Times of Israel reported.
Prior to the auction, the work went on a world tour – the Bible was exhibited successively in London, Tel Aviv and Los Angeles.
“There are three ancient Hebrew Bibles from this period,” Professor Josef Ofer of Bar Ilan University told reporters – the Soon Codex, the 10th century Aleppo Codex and the early 11th century Leningrad Codex. Only the Dead Sea Scrolls and a handful of fragmentary early medieval texts are older.” Christians call the texts contained in the Hebrew Bible the Old Testament.
The copy sold on Wednesday was made between 880 and 960. Until the 13th century, it was kept in a Syrian synagogue, which, however, was irretrievably destroyed. After seven centuries, David Solomon Soon, an expert and collector, tracked down the manuscript and purchased it in 1929 for £350. Half a century later, his heirs sold the code – the book was purchased for $ 320,000 by the British Railway Workers’ Pension Fund. After 11 years, he sold the code to a banker – for as little as $3.19 million.
The Soon Codex is handwritten and bound in leather. Its 792 pages make up about 92 percent. the full text of the Hebrew Bible.
Sharon Liberman Mintz, a Judaica expert at the auction house, said the price at which the document was purchased reflects the influence and importance of the Hebrew Bible, which is “an integral pillar of humanism.” She expressed her delight that the book would return to Israel, where it would be available to researchers and viewers.
Among the most expensive historical documents are the notes of Leonardo Da Vinci, the so-called the Leicester Code, sold in 1994 for $30.8 million, and one of the few copies of the U.S. Constitution, purchased two years ago for $43.2 million. (PAP)