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Sotheby’s to auction Shem Tov Bible scribed by the medieval scholar

The 1312 manuscript will be displayed at the auction house this month and again in September before it is sold

The Shem Tov Bible is due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in September 2024. (Courtesy of Sotheby's)
The Shem Tov Bible is due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in September 2024. (Courtesy of Sotheby's)

Sotheby’s announced that it will auction the illuminated Shem Tov Bible, a sacred medieval manuscript, in September.

According to Sotheby’s, the Bible manuscript was written in 1312 by kabbalist and Jewish scholar Rabbi Shem Tov Ibn Gaon in Soria, Castile. Considered one of the most accurate Bibles of its time, the manuscript includes the additional significance of Kabbalistic dimensions added to its letters by Shem Tov.

“It was clear from all of the copious notes on the side that [Shem Tov] was doing everything possible, checking many manuscripts to ensure the accuracy of the Bible,” Sotheby’s international senior specialist for books, manuscripts, and textiles, Sharon Liberman Mintz, told newspaper Barron’s.

She also explained that the term “illuminated” used to refer to all medieval manuscripts adorned with “beautiful rich pigments” as well as gold and silver leaf, but that today, the term is used to describe all decorated medieval Hebrew manuscripts.

Other than being illuminated, the Bible’s decorations are also special in that they “combine the artistic aesthetics of the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish worlds,” Mintz said.

She also added that the Bible was considered to have amuletic properties and would historically be brought to the homes of women in labor to ease their births.

In this file photo taken on January 30, 2019 at Sotheby’s in New York, Sotheby’s employees take phone bids on an art work. (Don EMMERT / AFP)

Shem Tov originally wrote the manuscript as his personal bible for study, but after he died it was lost for centuries until it was recorded among the possessions of the Seror family in Tripoli in the 19th century.

The tome was then purchased by Hebrew manuscript collector David Solomon Sassoon in 1909 before his family sold it at Sotheby’s in the 1970s, according to Barron’s. It was sold again in 1984 and then again in 1994.

The Shem Tov Bible will be displayed at the auction house in New York on June 21-26 and September 5-9 before being auctioned on September 10.

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