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Prayer book surprises with £71k sale


A Hebrew prayer book sold at auction on September 5th for 14-times its estimate.

The sale, by Hanson’s in Lancashire, shows how important specialist appraisals can be, and the extent to which all markets are now global.

International buyers vied by phone to secure the Tikune Shabat. But its owners, retired teachers from north-west England, had bought it along to a valuation focused on a Harry Potter book.

Fortunately, Hanson’s Jim Spencer spotted the potential of the item. He called in Ilana Tahan from the British Library, who recognised its historic importance.

Susan Wilson inherited the book from a relative.

Tahan assessed the illustrated volume, finding a possible link to significant German rabbi, Jacob Emden.

The text is richly illustrated.

Would-be buyers also started to arrive.

Jim Spencer said: “One man from London came to view it and his reaction on studying it made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.”

The item was offered on September 5th with a guide price of £5,000 – £10,000.

With buyer’s premium it raised £71,000, a hammer price of £57,000.

“The final result surpassed all expectations,” Mr Spencer added.

Martin Wilson said: “It was with a degree of incredulity that we watched the sale. We are a little stunned by the outcome. “It will no doubt take a little time to sink in.”

The book was dated and inscribed. That inscription assigns it to Abraham ben [son of] Meir Emden. The date is February 3, 1757.

It is richly illustrated.

Just a few months ago, a Hebrew bible realised $38million when it was bought for the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv at Sotheby’s in New York. The Codex Sassoon is one of the oldest and best known biblical manuscripts.

Not all valuable and significant texts are so easily spotted. Expert evaluation can really pay dividends both for sellers, who will raise the best price, and for us all, as important historical documents are unearthed and shared more widely.

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