16th-century Babylonian Talmud Auctioned Off for Record $9.3 Million

Daniel Bomberg printed the first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud between 1519 and 1523 in Venice, of which only 14 complete sets are believed to exist today.

Olivier Fitoussi

A 16th-century Talmud garnered a record auction price for Judaica, selling for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s in New York on Tuesday.

The copy of Daniel Bomberg’s Babylonian Talmud was sold to Stephan Loewentheil of the 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop, the auction house announced in a news release.

Tuesday’s auction, which also featured other Judaica from the Valmadonna Trust, totaled $14.9 million, making it the most valuable Judaica auction ever held, according to Sotheby’s.

Daniel Bomberg printed the first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud between 1519 and 1523 in Venice.

Only 14 complete 16th-century Bomberg Talmud sets are believed to exist today. The Valmadonna Library’s set, kept for centuries in the library of Westminster Abbey, in London, was purchased by collector Jack Lunzer in the 1980s.

Other big sales in Tuesday’s Valmadonna Trust auction included a Hebrew Bible printed in England in 1189, which sold for $3.6 million, and “Illuminated Hebrew Bible: Psalms,” with commentary by David Kimhi ($670,000). The auction also featured the only known illustrated manuscript Haggadah from India, which sold for $418,000.

According to Sotheby’s, the previous record for a piece of Judaica was achieved at Christie’s auction house in Paris in 2014, when a Hebrew Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses, or the Torah) printed in Bologna in 1482 sold for about $3.85 million.