Home Christian News Early Christian Scripture and Ancient Codices Draw Collectors’ Eyes to Paris

Early Christian Scripture and Ancient Codices Draw Collectors’ Eyes to Paris

The document, valued at £1.5 million, or $1.85 million, is a bargain, as the buyer gets the two texts for the price of one.

Also part of the Schoyen Collection is the Holkham Hebrew Bible, a Sephardic manuscript in Hebrew from the 13th century, the Geraardsbergen Bible from late 12th-century Flanders, and a commentary on the Gospels by the Venerable Bede from the 11th century.

Last year the Codex Sassoon, a Hebrew Bible more than 1,000 years old, became the most valuable manuscript sold at auction when it went for $38.1 million at Sotheby’s in New York, confirming New York as the leading market for Hebraic religious texts, while London remains the capital for sales of illuminated Christian texts. But both centers attract buyers, including museums, from around the world.

Prices are believed to have been pushed higher by the intervention of one major player: the Green family, U.S. evangelical Christians who have used their fortune created by the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores to purchase illuminated, or decorated, manuscripts, Torahs, papyri and other works worth $20 million to $40 million from auction houses, dealers, private collectors and institutions.

Items from the Green collection were donated to the Museum of the Bible in Washington, a family project that opened in 2017 with a mission to “inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.” It has since stepped back from this evangelical purpose and says that it is an “institution whose purpose is to invite all people to engage with the transformative power of the Bible.”

Meanwhile, the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center, a Bible museum created by the American Bible Society in Philadelphia, announced that it will shut its doors after fewer than three years of operation and an investment of $60 million. Opened in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, it failed to draw anywhere close to its projected 250,000 annual visitors.

The British and Foreign Bible Society, which has the biggest collection of Bibles and other religious books and documents in the world, has shied away from opening a museum, although it does open its collection, based at Cambridge University, to scholars and researchers. While it still expands through legacies and donations and is committed to good stewardship of its existing treasures, the BFBS does not acquire items with its own funds, preferring, it says, to disseminate the Bible and be involved in mission rather than convey the message that the Bible is a museum piece.

In recent times there have been concerns that some items held by Biblical manuscript collectors have been acquired through the black market, especially from people in trouble spots in the Middle East. According to Christie’s Donadoni, all the items from the Schoyen Collection that are up for auction in June have had their provenance vetted and have been checked extensively by its legal department.

This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.