Yesterday, Galleycat reported that a five hundred year old Torah had been sold at auction for a record amount. The winning bidder paid nearly four million dollars for it. I love seeing books sell for incredible amounts. It reminds me that other people cherish the form as much as I do. But I wasn’t happy to see that the bidder was anonymous. I always flinch, figuratively, when I see a cultural artifact like this one go to a private or anonymous bidder. My first coherent thought after reading articles like this is, to quote the famous fictional archaeologist, “It belongs in a museum!” It saddens me that this Torah, like other privately held books and works of art, will only be see and studied by its owner instead of shared with the world.
Perhaps its the librarian in me that objects to sales like this. I want books to be shared and passed around and used by as many readers as possible.
|This picture comes from Christies’ press release.|
The press release notes:
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 press release also reports that two other copies have gone to auction in the past, so this isn’t the only copy of this incunabule in existence.