On Wednesday morning, Alfred Moses, 94, sat in a small white armchair at a round wooden table in a Manhattan office building as a historian gingerly turned the pages of a more than 1,000-year-old book in front of him.
The book was the Codex Sassoon, the world’s oldest nearly-complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, and Moses had purchased it on behalf of the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. That morning, in Sotheby’s Upper East Side office, Sharon Mintz, the auction house’s senior Judaica specialist, was giving Moses and some of his relatives a history lesson on his new acquisition.
Mintz turned the pages with clean, bare hands, noting the scored ruling between the lines of text and the thickness of the parchment pages — made somewhat thinner in places where scribes scratched over each others’ notes. Before Moses bought the book at a much-anticipated Sotheby’s auction on May 17, the codex passed between multiple owners — most recently through the hands of Jacqui Safra, a member of the prominent banking family, and before him, in the 1920s, Jewish book collector David Solomon Sassoon.
It will now be housed at the ANU Museum, which exhibited the codex earlier this year.
“It’s an inspiring book, to see a 1,200 year old manuscript in perfect [condition] — even that we can read today — it’s quite amazing,” Moses said. “It has the vowels and the trope … it’s remarkable. It’s something that’s been preserved for 1,200 years. And we’re the beneficiaries of it.”
Source - JTA/Twitter - Image - Perry Bindelglass for The American Friends of ANU The Museum of the Jewish People