Art & Culture

Rare Jewish Scripture sells for record $3.8M


A 500-year-old Jewish holy book was auctioned in Paris on Wednesday for close to $4 million, double its expected price.

The text, containing the Five Books of Moses and commentary by the medieval scholar Rashi, was printed in Hebrew in Bologna, Italy, in January 1482. It is considered to have a similar historical status as the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed using movable type printing techniques.

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The text, sold by auction house Christie's department of books and manuscripts, is one of only three of its kind to come to auction in the last 100 years. It is especially rare as it is first known printed text that incorporates the Five Books of Moses and the first to which vocalization and cantillation marks had been added, Christie's said.

Tension was said to be high in the auction house, as bidders both in the room and on the telephone battled it out for nearly 10 minutes. In the end, an anonymous telephone bidder won the bidding war with a $3,845,661 offer, setting a world record for the sale of printed Judaica (Jewish ceremonial work). The figure was well beyond the estimated price of 1.0-1.5 million euros ($1.4-$2.0 million).

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In May 2012, Christie's sold a 15th-century Mahzor, the High Holy Day prayer book, for a record $2.4 million.