Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Christie's sells a Chumash from 1400's for record price

The Chumash was sold for almost 4 million dollars, above the 2 million estimate. It is just like a Torah Scroll, but with vowelization, cantillation marks and Unkulus commentary on the side. Below you can read all the information:

Paris – The Department of Books and Manuscripts is pleased to announce the auction of an 
exceptional printed Torah (or Pentateuch: the first five books of the Bible) at their sale on 30 
April 2014. 

A major turning point in the history of printing in general and of Hebrew books in particular, 
this rare incunable, whose value is estimated at €1,000,000-1,500,000, will undoubtedly be the 
highlight of the sale. Printed in Hebrew in Bologna in January 1482, the volume represents the 
very first appearance in print of all five books of the Pentateuch as well as the first to which 
vocalisation and cantillation marks have been added. It is equally the first time that the printed 
Biblical text is accompanied by Rashi’s commentary and the paraphrase in Aramaic (Targum 
Onkelos). The significance of this edition is demonstrated by the fact that this format is still in use 
today when printing the Torah. 

Essential to reading and chanting the text of the Torah, the addition of vocalisation and 
cantillation marks represented a considerable challenge for 15th
 century printers. Abraham ben 
Hayyim of Pesaro was the first to overcome this technical difficulty during the printing of the 
present Pentateuch. Having overcome this first hurdle, he also had the talent and intelligence to 
frame the Biblical text with Rashi’s commentaries in order to facilitate the parallel study of the 
text. The majority of the copies were printed on vellum in accordance with the precepts of the 

The back of the present 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: Luigi da Bologna in 1599, Camillo Jaghel in 1613 and Renato da Modena in 1626. The censors had the task of examining and checking all books, both manuscript and printed, in order to authorise or ban ownership and distribution of the work: the text of the Rashi commentary here bears the marks of their work, having been erased or crossed out in a number of places. 

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. The Pentateuch to be presented next April is printed on vellum, complete (apart from the 
rear free end paper) and in exceptionally fresh condition. 

Two years after the sensational price realised at Christie’s Paris for a manuscript Mahzor in May 
2012, which set a world record for an illuminated Hebrew manuscript, this is now the second 
occasion on which the Department of Books and Manuscripts has presented a Hebrew book of 
outstanding significance, considered by many to stand alongside the Gutenberg Bible as one of 
the monuments of the history of printing. 


ari k. said...

it is printed, not handwritten.

have you ever seen sons of haman written in 6 lines?

YK said...

thanks ari, I corrected

never seen haman sons in 6 lines. have you?


Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ari k. said...

not in a megillah, but i just saw it in a ca. 1300 spanish codex. at the bottom of a column. i assumed the sofer wanted to keep it together so did it in the 6 lines he had left. and it's just a codex, so doesn't really matter. but someone pointed out a possible reference in masechet soferim.
(leningrad codex has it standard lines, but first line starts me'ot ish)

ari k. said...

check your email