1482 Torah book fetches record $3.87 million at Paris auction

By JTA
May 2, 2014 12:16

The book was printed in Hebrew in Bologna in January 1482; only two other copies of this rare edition have come to auction in last 100 years.

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1482 Torah

Torah dating back to 1482 on auction. (photo credit:CHRISTIE'S)

A 15th-century book of the Torah sold for a record $3.87 million at an auction in Paris.

Christie’s, which organized Wednesday’s auction, listed the buyer as “anonymous” and said the sale broke the mark for the most expensive Hebrew-language book. Three buyers attempted to outbid each other over the telephone, the news website actualitte.com reported Thursday.

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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,” the Christie’s website said.

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 machzor, or Jewish High Holidays prayer book, for $2.41 million. It was created in Florence, Italy, and richly embellished with intricate designs.


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