• Short Summary

    Scholars and members of the public in Jerusalem on Sunday (16 November) had the chance to see the products of the most costly sale of manuscripts ever made.

  • Description

    Scholars and members of the public in Jerusalem on Sunday (16 November) had the chance to see the products of the most costly sale of manuscripts ever made.

    Eight items worth 1.2 million dollars (about GBP600,000 sterling) were on show at Jerusalem's Jewish National and University Library -- the lion's share of an auction in Zurich, Switzerland, recently of the Sassoon family collection. Sir John Carr of London's Sotheby's firm conducted the auction which earned a record 2.1 million dollars (about GBP1.50 million sterling) for the Sassoon family.

    The State of Israel bought the manuscripts -- partly by public subscription -- for the Library.

    Scholars will have pleased by one piece of luck. One of the items, a 13th century Samaritan bible, and had the front and back leaves missing. But the late oriental Professor A.S. Yahuda acquired two such leaves earlier this century and on his death they were bequeathed to the Hebrew University. The result is that the two leaves have hove now been joined to original.

    The most expensive items are the second and third orders of the Mishnah with a commentary in Judaeo-Arabic by Moses Maimonides the Rambam (1135-1204). The commentary is believed to have been published in Cairo, Egypt about 1160 and to be written in the author's handwriting. The two volumes are in Spanish rabbinic and cursive script.

    The Damascus Keter or Crown Torah is the largest book in the exhibition -- 458 pages long. David S. Sassoon who bought it in 1914 from the leaders of the Jewish community in Damascus, Syria, asserted in his "Ohel David" that the manuscript was written in Babylon in the 9th century, but Hebrew University scholars consider it to be of Palestinian origin and written in the 10th century.

    Eight of the most treasured items of the Sasson collection of Hebrew and Samaritan manuscripts were acquired by the State of Israel for the National and Hebrew University Library in Jerusalem at a recent auction in Zurich. Sir John Carr of Sotheby's conducted the auction which turned out to be a record for any public sale of manuscripts when it netted the Sasson family $ 2.1 million. Of this the Israel government through its agents spent $ 1.2 million, $ 470.000.- for the Maimonides Mishnah, $ 425.000- for the Damascus Crown Pentateuch, and $ 225.000- for the Passover Haggadah (Book read on Passover telling the tale of the Exodus of the Children of Israel for bondage in Egypt). 250 agents and collectors took part in the auction. For further info see press-release attached.

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