• Wed. Jun 12th, 2024

In auction, the oldest book in the world sold for $3.9 million


Jun 12, 2024

Recently, a 1,700-year-old book known as the Crosby-Schøyen Codex from Egypt was sold at an auction for $3.9 million, surpassing the expected price range of $2.6 million to $3.8 million. This 104-page book, written in Coptic, has a historical significance dating back to 250–350 AD, making it one of the oldest pieces of evidence of a book as we know it today.

The codex, all written by a single scribe over forty years on 52 leaves, marks a crucial period in history during the early years of Christianity. It was auctioned as part of the “manuscript masterpieces” in the Schøyen Collection, considered one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of manuscripts ever assembled by Christie’s.

According to Eugenio Donadoni, Christie’s senior specialist in Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, the Crosby-Schøyen Codex is “of monumental importance as a witness to the earliest spread of Christianity around the Mediterranean.” The papyrus has survived well over the years due to Egypt’s dry climate and is currently one of the world’s oldest books in private ownership.

Discovered in the 1950s, the codex has changed hands multiple times and is now owned by Norwegian collector Martin Schøyen. It is well-known for containing texts such as the Old Testament Book of Jonah and the First Epistle of Peter, which are still read during Easter services. The book’s journey from its discovery to its latest auction demonstrates the enduring value and significance of ancient manuscripts.


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