Sunday, May 11, 2014

Record Set for highest price paid for Hebrew Printed Book, with sale of 1482 Bologna Chumash for $3.87 Million


A newly discovered, large and complete copy in very fine condition of the first printed edition of the Pentateuch - the first five books of the Bible aka Torah - in Hebrew sold by Christie's-Paris in its Importants livres anciens, livres d'artistes & manuscripts, Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

Printed on vellum in Bologna by Abraham ben Hayim of Pesaro for Joseph ben Abraham Caravita, this, the Hamishah humshe Torah was published on January, 25, 1482 with Aramaic paraphrase (Targum Onkelos) and commentary by Rashi (Solomon ben Isaac).

Rarer than copies of the Gutenberg Bible (49, per last census), and one of only twenty-eight surviving copies on vellum (with eleven survivors on paper), most incomplete, it was estimated to sell for $1,400,000 - $2,000,000 (€1,000,000-1,500,000;  £900,000-1,300,000), but ended up breaking several records with it's sale for $3.87 million, breaking the record for highest price paid for Hebrew Book as well as highest price paid for any printed work sold in France.

Arguably the most important book in the history of Hebrew printing and publishing, it incorporates the first appearance in print of the ancient Targum attributed to Onkelos. Rashi’s commentary, also included, was first published in Rome around a dozen years earlier. This first edition of the Pentateuch in its original language is the first Hebrew book with printed vowel and cantillation signs (those symbols beneath the letters).

Abraham ben Hayim may have started as a textile printer and dyer and/or bookbinder in Pesaro. His first recorded printing press stood at Ferrara in 1477, which produced two books, beginning with Levi ben Gershom’s Be’ur sefer lyov (Commentary on the Book of Job), edited and/or financed by Nathan of Salò; then it completed - about two thirds of the text - Jacob ben Asher’s Tur yoreh de’ah (Teacher of Knowledge), which had been started at the press of Abraham ben Solomon Conat in Mantua. At his second press, in Bologna, Abraham ben Hayim worked for Joseph ben Abraham, a member of the Caravita, an influential Jewish family of bankers.

3 bidders bid the book up to it's final sale price, the buyer choosing to remain anonymous. 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.


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