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The Codex Leicester:  The World's Most Valuable Used Book?



  In 1994, Bill Gates, one of the world's most successful businessmen and a founder of Microsoft, Inc., purchased a book (of sorts) called the Codex Leicester for $30.8 million dollars.  

  This 'codex' is named after one of it's former owners, a man named Thomas Coke, who purchased it in 1717.  He became the Earl of Leicester during his lifetime; hence 'the Codex Leicester'. 

  It is actually a 'book' containing a number of Leonardo DaVinci's thoughts, drawings, and ideas.  It is composed of 18 sheets, folded in half, with both sides written on.  It was once owned by the industrialist Armand Hammer, and so was called the Codex Hammer for a while also.  Here is an example of the work it contains:  

A Codex-Leicester Page

  Personally, as a poor man, I think that $30.8 million is a pretty astounding amount to pay for a book.  But on the other hand, I like it that a billionaire from the United States places that much value on the history of learning and knowledge.  Instead of a castle, a yacht, or 10,000 acres of his own personal jungle hideaway land, he saw immense value in a book of ideas written by a man that is almost universally regarded as one of the most brilliant and innovative thinkers that time has produced among mankind.

 Of course, Mr. Gates may also posess the yacht, the castle, and the jungle hideaway.  But it's neat that he placed such value on an old book.  And I have read that each year, for a limited time, he and his wife allow it to be displayed in some city in the world, at various museums, etc., to allow for the public to enjoy viewing it.  That seems a pretty generous hearted, or public minded use of this purchase. 

  If you perform an internet search to see which book was sold at the highest price ever, you will probably find that the search results name this 1994 purchase of the Codex Leicester by Bill Gates.

  Do you suppose that if the world were different, and Bibles - let's say the Word of God in any form - was absolutely scarce, that it would be so valuable?  Let's say that the word of God was somehow unknown throughout the world, and then an archaeological crew somewhere dug up a tomb, and inside was found a book containing the words of God you suppose that book would go for a higher price than the Codex Leicester?

  Wouldn't that be the most interesting thing?  Imagine if all Bibles, all writings of God Almighty in every form, suddenly disappeared and for the next 100 years were unknown on the entire face of the planet.  By the time 100 years had gone by, not many living people would have ever even heard the words of God and Jesus with their own ears.  It would be a great mystery - perhaps the greatest mystery:  what was it God Almighty and Jesus had said to man?  What was it that those lost writings had said?  People would be so hungry to know.  Many would ache to know.  And the world would probably be unspeakably wicked if such were the case.

  So, anyway, let's say such a situation came to be, and then, one day on the news networks it was confirmed that a tomb somewhere had been opened, and to the shock of everyone on the dig crew, a complete Bible had been found.  It was confirmed to be the real thing.  The government of the nation where it was found, some wretchedly poor nation, had made the decision to put it up for sale to the highest bidder.  So how much would it bring?  Would it bring more than the 30.8 million inflation adjusted dollars Bill Gates paid for the Codex Leicester?

  It is interesting to know that the situation where the Word of God cannot be found anywhere is not necessarily hypothetical.  There is a prophet in the Bible - Amos - who speaks of a time coming where that will be the case.  Amos Chapter 8, v. 9-14.

"On that day, says the Lord, I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight.  I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentations.  I will cover the loins of all with sack cloth and make every head bald.  I will make them mourn as for an only son, and I will bring their day to a bitter end." 

"Yes, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will send famine upon the land:  Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord.  Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it."

 "On that day fair virgins and young men shall faint from thirst; Those who swear by the shameful idol of Samaria.  "By the life of your god, O Dan!"  "By the life of your love, O Beer-sheba!"  those shall fall, never to rise again."             End Quote

  Amos is a proven prophet, yet the sun has not set at mid-day nor darkness blanketed the Earth during daytime hours, to my knowledge.  It might have in part maybe, but never in whole.  This prophecy is apparently still future.  It may occur in our lifetime...who knows?

  But as to the value of the Word of God if it were that especially rare, consider the great value once placed upon it by a certain ancient world leader:

  When Alexander the Great died, his conquered holdings were parcelled out between his generals, who were very envious of each other.  There were many wars between them, and later between their sons and other descendents.  But there were times of peace also.

  In book 12 of Josephus's 'The Antiquities of the Jews', you read how this relates to the writings of the God of the Jews.  Ptolemy, son of Lagus, received part of Alexander's Kingdom.  He received Egypt, but then also took Jerusalem and Judea by 'deceit and trickery'.   

  He came with his army into the city of Jerusalem on the Sabbath as if he was a friend.  Once inside it's walls, he seized upon the city.  He reigned over them 'in a cruel manner' according to Josephus.  He sent many Jews to the land of Egypt to live, though it was a pretty good land to live in, and therefore not a necessarily a horrible hardship.  Yet those who went to Egypt were far from their Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and that was hard for them.  And many were made into slaves.

  When this man Ptolemy Soter had reigned about 40 years, his son Ptolemy Philadelphus then reigned for 39 years.  This man was much kinder to the Jews in many ways. 

  For one thing, Ptolemy Philadelphus was a very rich king that was also an avid book collector.  He had a learned servant named Demetrius that worked zealously to enlarge the kings ever growing library with rare and valuable works. 

  Once, discussing his library with Demetrius, he asked how many books he had in total.  Demetrius told him that it was about 200,000 books, but would soon enough grow to 500,000 he thought.  He also mentioned to the king that the Jews had a lot of very desireable writings, but that they were written in their Hebrew language, which was very different from Greek, and therefore hard to translate into Greek.  But, he believed that the writings of their legislators would be very wonderful to posess. 

Yet both were aware that the writings of the Jews were from God, and so considered sacred.  Getting the Jews to let Greeks like themselves have those writings to make translations from...that could be a tricky negotiation.  It was known by local nations that the Jews could sometimes be stubborn even unto death concerning issues where their God or His laws or Holy Things were involved.

  But, as Ptolemy was the king over Israel at that time, he had a letter sent to the Jewish high priest, asking the high priest to provide the Holy Writings to be translated for the king's library, because the King had learned that they were writings to be held in high esteem.

 While this matter of persuading the Jews to allow them to translate the Holy writings was under action by the government of the king, a friend of the king named Aristeus saw a chance to ask the king for a favor that he had long desired.  He wished that the 120,000 or more Jewish slaves in Egypt, kept there since the time of the king's father, could be released.  Aristeus had a heart for their condition. 

  Aristeus gained permission to speak to the king about this matter of the Jewish slaves, and when he addressed the king, he mentioned several things.  He mentions (Book 12, Chap 2, sect 2 Antiquities of the Jews) that the Jews worshipped as their God the same God that king Ptolemy worshipped under the name of Zena/Jupiter (apparently translating in some language or another as 'he that breathes life into all men') .  Aristeus had researched it, and found it to be true, he told the king. 

  ****Apparently Jupiter was seen as that god among the Greeks, and perhaps it really is true that, when the languages were first divided at the tower of Babel, the ancestors of the Greeks there after used the name Jupiter for the name of the one true God, but later 'paganized' his history.  I couldn't say for sure.**** 

  Aristeus went on to tell the king that these Jews were known to have a particularly excellent way of worshiping this God. 

  And furthermore, it would honor God, who made all men, to release these Jews from their bondage.  Aristeus suspected that God would be very well pleased with the king if he released these Jewish slaves residing in his kingdom.  It would be unfair, Aristeus argued, to ask the Jewish High Priest to share the holy writings given from God while there were so many of his Jewish countrymen being held slave in Ptolemy's kingdom.

  For whatever reason, King Ptolemy Philadelphus heard the words of his friend with particular favor and indulgence, and asking his friend how many slaves there were.  Again, the estimate was 120,000 Jewish slaves.  He found it would take about 400 talents of gold to buy the freedom of all the Jewish slaves in his kingdom.

  The king granted this 400 talents of gold, to be paid to the numerous owners of the many Jewish slaves, to compensate those owners for the loss of their property.  However, when it was all said and done, the owners wanted to be paid for the Jewish children of these slaves also, because those children were also valuable property.  That took 60 talents more of gold.  So, now the king had paid 460 talents of gold.  But the payments were made, and made quickly.  Within 7 days of agreeing to it, the payments were approved. 

  To further please the high priest of Israel, the king had 50 talents of gold sent to the temple, so that vessals of whatever type might please the Jews could be made from that gold.  That makes 460 talents plus 50 talents of gold, so far.(Antiquities 12.2.5)....510 talentsof gold total so far.

  The king also sent 'an immense quantity' of precious stones. (12.2.5), 

  He also ordered that '100 talents in money should be sent to the Jewish temple for sacrifices and for other uses.'  Let's just consider that to be another 100 talents of gold, and call the precious stones to be 50 talents of gold.  That would bring the total value of the gifts - in gold - to be about 660 talents of gold. 

  Then, the king commissioned some of the greatest artisans and craftsmen in his land to make bowl, vessals, tables, and other items for the Jewish temple - items so bejewelled, inscribed, engraved, opulent and beautiful that Josephus goes on for 12.2.8,9,and 10 describing the collection.  And it sounds like a treasure that would make a valued centerpiece in any kingdom in any age.

 Then the gifts were sent in the posession of the king's captain, along with a letter to the High Priest from king Ptolemy.  The king requested that the High Priest would select 6 wise men from each one of the 12 tribes to bring the sacred Jewish writings, and to work on the translating.  He asked for men considered most knowledgeable in the laws, most adept at translating to the Greek, men of good character, and elders.

  The High Priest assented, and could hardly have done otherwise both because of the authority of the king, and because of the vast amount of honor and tribute that Ptolemy was exhibiting towards both the nation, the temple, and the God of Israel. 

  So, a search was made and 72 men were chosen.  When these 72 men sent by Eleazar the high priest of Israel arrived in Alexandria, Egypt, Ptolemy took the highly unusual step of sending away all other visitors, ambassadors, and supplicants, thus freeing up all of his time exclusively for meeting and greeting these translators from Israel - personally!  Just for the sake of the profound regard he had for the word of the Living God of the Jews.  Ptolemy Philadelphus was one of the most important rulers of the world at this time, and yet it seems that he could think of absolutely nothing else but this project.  He seems to have had a sense of just what a Holy undertaking it was.

  When the 72 men had been presented to him, he expressed his eagerness to actually view the sacred parchments.  The translators pulled them out of their protective covering, and the king observed them closely and with great appreciation, noting the thinness of the parchment, and the perfectness of the junctures of the connected sheets, which it is said could scarcely be discerned by the eye. And he looked at the golden colored lettering, with which these laws of God were written on the membranes of parchment.

  Then, the king spoke to the 72 men who had come, as follows from Josephus:

  "He then said that he returned them thanks for coming to him, and still greater thanks to him that sent them, and, above all, to that God whose laws they appear to be."

  "Then did the elders, and those that were present with them, cry out with one voice and wished all happiness to the king.  Upon which he fell into tears by the violence of the pleasure he had, it being natural to men to afford the same indications in great joy that they do under sorrow."  Josephus

  Next, the king treated his 72 guests in the most noble and resplendent fashion, for 12 days of wonderful feasts, and intellectual discourse in sumptuous surroundings, during which the king would pose questions to them, and listen to the answers they gave him as men knowledgeable in the wisdom of the true God.  It is recorded that he found their answers quite satisfying, and that by the end of this period of days the king felt he had learned a great deal that would be useful for administering his kingdom.

  The king also gifted them, at this time, with 3 talents of gold each.  Since there were 72 translators, receiving 3 talents each, that is 216 additional talents of gold, to add to the previous 660 talents that he had already spent.  That is 876 talents of far.

   There was an island near the court there in Alexandria, linked to the land by a causeway.  The king had ordered that a building be constructed there that would be spacious, and comfortable, and adequate in every way for this undertaking of translating the Hebrew laws to the Greek, and so eventually the translators rolled up their sleeves and the work began.  

  Each day the 72 translators would cross over to the court, greet the king, then ritually purify themselves and wash their hands.  Then they would cross back over to the building on the island and work until the 9th hour of the day.  (3 P.M. to us)

  The 72 men labored for 72 days (12.2.13) and then the work was finished.  72 men - 72 days.  They called for Demetrius, the man in charge of establishing the king's library, and they read the translation to him. 

  Next, they went and read them aloud for the king, who had devoted so very very much to this acheivement.  He was delighted with the translation, and also that this great plan had been brought to fruition.  It is mentioned that during the reading he was at times astounded at the wisdom of the laws.  He asked why more poets and writers hadn't discoursed upon them in their work?

  Demetrius the librarian answered the king, saying that "no one durst be so bold as to touch upon the description of these laws, because they were divine and venerable, and because some that had attempted it were afflicted by God."

  Demetrius said, specifically, that "Theopompus was desireable of writing somewhat upon them, but was thereupon disturbed in his mind for above thirty days time; and upon some intermission of his distemper, he appeased God [by prayer], as suspecting that his madness proceeded from that cause."

  "This man Theopompous further saw in a dream that this distemper fell upon him because he engaged in too great a curiosity about divine matters, and was desirous of publishing them among common men.  When Theopompous left off of the effort, he regained his understanding."

  Demetrius also mentioned Theodectes, a tragic poet, that was going to mention some of the things contained in the sacred Jewish writings in a certain dramatic presentation that he was putting on, but he was struck with a blindness.  Suspecting that speaking of these holy matters was the cause of his problem, he prayed for relief and the affliction left him. (12.2.14)

  The very pleased king Ptolemy Philadelphus 'adored' the books (paid them the respect of formal adoration, I think this means - effectively worshiping them) and then when it was time for the translators to return back home to Israel, he gave them each 2 more talents of gold and a fancy drinking cup for each man, also worth a talent.  And they each received handsomely made garments.

  So, that is another 3 talents for each of the 72 men, coming to 216 more talents.  Added to the previous 876 talents, this comes up to 1092 talents of gold spent by Ptolemy Philadelphus to smooth the way and to directly obtain the Septuagint Greek translation of the sacred Hebrew scriptures.  This king spent 1042 talents of gold to obtain the words of the Living God, Yahweh, as given to the Jewish people.  He could have paid 100 times more and it still would have been a steal.  The true worth of God's words is 'priceless'.   

  At 70 lbs per talent, that is 72,940 lbs of gold.  At 14.6 troy ounces per avois pound (the normal sort of pound, used for buying a 5 pound bag of potatoes, etc.,) that comes out to about 1,064,924 troy oz. of gold. 

  So, lets go back to the Bill Gates purchase of the Codex Leicester, at 30.8 million dollars. 

   If gold was $385.00 per ounce in 1994, and you use that price and multiply that price of gold times the 1,064,924 Troy ounces of gold that king Ptolemy 'paid' for the translation of the Hebrew scriptures, then Ptolemy's book cost $409,924,385.00

  Ptolemy Philadelphus paid almost $410 million for his book in today's money. (the money of 1994).    Bill Gates paid $30.8 million for his Codex Leicester.

  So, the highest price ever paid for a book is quite probably the nearly $410 million (admittedly only an aproximate and roughly adjusted value!) paid by king Ptolemy Philadelphus for a book originated by the author named Yahweh, Creator of All Things and God of the Universe, as penned by His servant Moses, and other prophets later. 

  Which seems fairly fitting.  Do you agree?  I think that even Leonardo DaVinci would reason out the matter with his celebrated mind and then admit that God is the more accomplished thinker between them.  In fact, he would do all of that reasoning with a mind that God himself had created and then granted to our famous Italian friend.

  Though he spent far more, Ptolemy Philadelphus probably made a far better purchase.  After all, how many people have read the Codex Leicester?  Compare that, if you wish, to the number of people who have read from the Septuagent version of the Old Testament. Or from a translation derived from it.  You're looking at more than a billion people, and any publisher will allow that a billion readers is a significant share of the market.

  And has the Codex Leicester ever saved a soul?  I am pretty sure that Mr. Gates is happy with his purchase, yet would quickly allow that the thoughts of God are greater than those of Leonardo Da Vinci, and worth far more.

  Praise God, who is pre-eminent in all good things, and ensures that His Son is as well! 



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