The World's Oldest Near Complete Bible to Be Sold at Auction

- by Bruce E. McKinney


The Sassoon Codex

There are books and there are books. Some are larger, some in color, some are rarer. When a book is considered the fundamental source for a field or a category they call it their bible. They use that term as the highest accolade.


They use that term because, based on Guinness and common sense, the Bible is the most widely published book in world history. Five billion copies have been printed. It is based on the books of the Torah. Today the most valuable book is thought to be a Gutenberg Bible and now there is fresh reconsideration as to whether an earlier manuscript volume, known as the "Codex Sassoon," a near complete Hebrew Bible dated to 800 AD, may sell at auction for an astounding amount of money.


It almost certainly will but it wasn’t always seen in those terms.


It was purchased at auction in England in 1929 for £350. The pound that year was worth $4.86, working out to $1,701 in 1929 dollars. That year 17 lots achieved a similar auction valuation. Using our estimating software for a $1,700 auction realization in 1929 today we convert that much money into $121,000 today.


Certainly for that money you had some nice choices but no one is going to talk about multi- million dollar valuations for them today. Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park cost that. So did William Thackery’s Vanity Fair, a Novel without a Hero. You could have bought a nice Shelley (Percy) Bysshe manuscript for that much. And in fact, if you could lump them together with the other 14 of these 17 items on that list and still appear to be a rounding error on the Sassoon Codex’s soon be market confirmed valuation.


So how does  £350 or $1,700 at 1929 convert into a $30-50 million estimate?


It’s all about numbers. Billions of people have an emotional connection to Judaism and the cradle of Christianity. This is the foundation of their deepest beliefs. And again it’s all about a number. This volume is unique, a one of a kind, the oldest near complete Bible (Old Testament in Christianity) in existence. The bidding will be intense and the final bid may reach all the way to heaven.


I wish the bidders all the best. The bidding starts early May.