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Torah Book Fetches Record $3.87 Million at Paris Auction

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This 15th century Book of the Torah fetched a record $3.87 million in a telephone auction in Paris.

This 15th century Book of the Torah fetched a record $3.87 million in a telephone auction in Paris.
Photo Credit: Christie's

A 15th century printed book of the Torah fetched a record $3.87 million at an auction in Paris.

Three buyers attempted to outbid each other over the telephone during the sale which the Christie’s auction house organized on April 30, the news website actualitte.com reported Thursday.

Christie’s listed the buyer as “anonymous” but said the sale broke two records. According to Christie’s, the item was the world’s most expensive Hebrew-language book and fetched a higher price than any printed book known to ever have been sold in France.

The book was printed in Hebrew in Bologna in January 1482, according to Christie’s. “The volume represents the very first appearance in print of all five books of the Pentateuch as well as the first to which vocalization and cantillation marks have been added,” according to the Christie’s website.

Prior to the auction, Christie’s estimated the item’s worth at up to 1.5 million euros, or $2.08 million.

The back of the copy bears the signature of three 16th and 17th century censors, testifying to its presence in an Italian library until at least the mid-17th century, according to Christie’s.

“Over the last hundred years only two copies of this rare edition have come to auction: the first in 1970, printed on vellum and complete, the second in 1998, printed on paper and missing eight pages,” Christie’s added in a news release before the sale.

The copy sold Wednesday was printed on vellum and is complete, apart from the rear free-end paper, and is “in exceptionally fresh condition,” the auction house said.

In 2012, the Paris office of Christie’s sold a 15th century mahzor, or Jewish holiday prayer book, for $2.41 million. It was created in Florence, Italy and was richly embellished with intricate designs.

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4 Responses to “Torah Book Fetches Record $3.87 Million at Paris Auction”

  1. Sad that the buyer remained anonymous. I’d like to know regardless of the cash outlay, that this book is SAFE in hands that LOVE it, not hands intending to destroy or secret it away again.

  2. It should be sold to a Jew, and not just anyone.

  3. Ari Arronsam says:

    bien dommage j ai pas assez d argent …

  4. It should be sold to the highest bidder. If he wishes to secret it away that is his concern only. It is, after all, only a printed book with no inherent holiness greater than a Soncino chumash. Jewish people are meant to disseminate Torah to all people. It is not exclusve.

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