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The Remarkable History of A 1,000-Year-Old Jewish Codex

Hosted By: Orange County Jewish Community Scholar Program ("CSP")

The earliest, most complete copy of the Hebrew Bible is actually a book known as Codex Sassoon, named for its most prominent modern owner: David Solomon Sassoon (1880–1942), a passionate collector of Judaica and Hebraic manuscripts. Dating to the late 9th or early 10th century, Codex Sassoon contains all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible – missing only 12 leaves – and precedes the earliest entirely complete Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad Codex, by nearly a century. Significantly, Codex Sassoon contains faithful notes of the Masorah, commentary that ensures the biblical text’s proper inscription and recitation. One such note refers to “the great teacher, Aaron ben Moses ben Asher” and his work on al-taj, the traditional honorific of the Aleppo Codex, suggesting the Masorete scribe who copied the Masorah of Codex Sassoon may have consulted the revered volume when it resided in Tiberias or Jerusalem in the 10th or 11th century. On 16 May 2023, when it comes to the block at Sotheby’s with an estimate of $30 to 50 million, Codex Sassoon could become the most valuable historical document ever sold at auction. Peek into the Codex and its history with Sotheby’s consultant Sharon Liberman Mintz.

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