Biblical Archaeology Review 40:5, September/October 2014

Strata: Four-Million-Dollar Torah

$3,850,679 was the hammered down price of a copy of the Hebrew Pentateuch recently auctioned off by Christie’s Auction House, Paris. The Pentateuch was printed in Bologna, Italy in 1482–10 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

It is the first printed book to contain all five books of the Pentateuch (or Torah) written in Hebrew with vocalization and cantillation marks, indicating how the text was to be chanted. Additionally, the text is accompanied by an Aramaic paraphrase (Targum Onkelos) of the text that can be seen in the narrow outer column on the page and by Rashi’s (Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac) commentary in sections above and below the larger Biblical text.

The book bears the marks (and signatures) of three Italian censors, indicating that the Bologna Torah was housed in an Italian library for at least part of its life.

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