WHY MUST WE SELL SUCH TREA­SURED ARTE­FACTS?

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT -

It is un­be­liev­able that the sin­gle old­est and, ar­guably most im­por­tant arte­fact in Ango-Jewish his­tory — the pre-Ex­pul­sion, 1189 Bi­ble man­u­script Codex Val­madonna I — should have been sold in Sotheby’s in New York ap­par­ently with­out so much as a mur­mur by the Bri­tish Jewish com­mu­nity. This Bi­ble was the ob­ject cho­sen to be shown to The Queen as part of the Ju­bilee Cel­e­bra­tions in 2012. It is not known who pur­chased it, but if it is leav­ing the UK it is a scan­dal. (Sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments may be voiced about the Bomberg Tal­mud in the same sale, which, while not in the same cat­e­gory, also has an honourable Bri­tish pedi­gree.)

Given that Bri­tain has been the home of the Val­madonna li­brary for so long, it would have been won­der­ful had the trustees do­nated (or per­ma­nently loaned) the Bri­tish man­u­script to the Bri­tish Li­brary, the Bodleian or the Jewish Mu­seum. Per­haps the new owner will con­sider do­ing so.

Fi­nally, the prove­nance of the man­u­script, queried by Dr Anne Sum­mers ( JC, Jan­uary 8) is fully de­scribed in the Sotheby’s cat­a­logue, which may be seen on­line. To my great as­ton­ish­ment, I see that, in the 19th cen­tury, it was owned by the Bam­berger fam­ily — de­scen­dants of the ex­otic fig­ure of the Ba’al Shem of Michel­stadt and di­rect an­ces­tors of one of my daugh­ters-in-law!

It passed to D. S. Sas­soon’s fa­mous col­lec­tion; the Val­madonna Trust ac­quired it when that li­brary was sold in 1978. Paul J. Sha­viv Fifth Av­enue New York 10028

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