LONDON, England: Sotheby's has announced that it sold the world's oldest and most complete Hebrew bible, the Codex Sassoon, for $38.1 million, one of the highest prices ever paid at auction for a book or document.
The winning bid was made through a donation by Alfred H. Moses, a former US ambassador and president of the American Jewish Committee, who will give the book to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The auction house said that the price for the book surpasses the $30.8 million paid in 1994 for Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester manuscript, but was below the some $50 million it said in February that it could sell for.
Written around the year 900, the Codex Sassoon is named after a previous owner, David Solomon Sassoon, who acquired the Bible in 1929.
The document offers a critical link bridging Jewish oral tradition to the modern Hebrew Bible, said officials.
Sotheby's noted that after its former owner, collector Jacqui Safra, had the book carbon dated, it was confirmed that it was older than the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex, two other major early Hebrew bibles.
"The Codex Sassoon had been dated to either the late 9th or early 10th century, on both scientific and paleographic grounds, and contains almost the entirety of the bible," it added.
The oldest copies of Biblical text ever found were the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in caves in 1947.
The Hebrew bible is foundational to Judaism, as well as Christianity and Islam.