France Recovers Stolen 13th-Century Hebrew Manuscript from US

France has recovered an invaluable 13th-century Hebrew manuscript of the Bible that was stolen from its National Library in Paris.

Gil Zohar, | updated: 22:12

The document, known as Hebrew 52, which was sold to a New York Jewish antiquities dealer, was returned to the National Library of France last Saturday following a verdict by the New York State Supreme Court handed down on Wednesday, January 3.

On May 19, 2000, the Brooklyn purchaser, a dealer in rare Hebraica named Yosef Goldman, picked up the manuscipt by paying $358,000 at a Christie’s auction in New York.

Nearly six years later, a former chief curator of the French library's Hebrew collection, Michel Garel, was convicted of stealing Hebrew 52 in 1998. He was fined 400,000 euros and given a two-year suspended sentence. The Biblioth?que Nationale de France then filed suit against Goldman, demanding the return of the stolen manuscript.

In July, 2006, Goldman in turn sued Christie's in Brooklyn Supreme Court, saying the auction house should never have accepted the work for auction, and that he should be refunded $358,000 in return for the manuscript.

On January 10 of this year, The New York Times reported that a settlement had been reached. After complex negotiations between French officials, Christie’s and Goldman, the manuscript was returned to the library, and Goldman received a refund. Library officials said that Goldman purchased the manuscript in good faith and had already resold it when its theft was discovered. France also reportedly agreed to cover some of Goldman’s legal expenses.

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