WHY MUST WE SELL SUCH TREASURED ARTEFACTS?
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