The Leningrad Codex (so named because it was housed in a museum in Leningrad, when it was Leningrad) is the oldest complete codex of the Hebrew Bible -- a codex being a book form, as opposed to scrolls; the other existing ancient codex, the Aleppo Codex, has a few sections missing; it may be older, but the incomplete nature (especially as it is missing part of the Torah) make its use limited. The same is not true for the Leningrad Codex -- for a thousand year old book, it is remarkably complete. Comparison of modern Hebrew Bibles to this text helps to highlight textual transmission validity and authenticity; other texts of the Hebrew Bible through the first millennium of the common era are incomplete or in fragments; the Dead Sea Scrolls, apart from being scrolls and not in codex or book form, date from pre-canonical times.
The Leningrad Codex is a big book, meant for public use. It is ornamented, with thick white parchment pages, and unusually has the wording of the text vocalised (Hebrew is generally written without vowel or vocalisation marks). In addition to the text of the Hebrew Bible, it includes an introductory section that dates the manuscript (to roughly 1008 to 1010), and places it as originating in Cairo, a city which at that point still had a significant Jewish and Christian community. The conclusion has Masoretic lists and a few poems, one by Moshe ben-Asher, and one by the scribe of this text, Shemu'el ben-Ya'aqob.
This is a photo-plate edition of the entire text, largely in black-and-white high resolution plates, with additional full-colour plates of carpet pages and a few text pages to give a sense of the natural colouration of the regular parchment pages. This edition was filmed in 1990 by a team from the University of Southern California, experts in the task of ancient document photography. The importance of preservation of this document cannot be overstated; given insecurities in all parts of the world, but particularly the former Soviet lands, rare and valuable items are vulnerable. This is a standard document against which later Hebrew Bibles are measured; it is an important milestone in the path of development of the texts.
There are nearly 1000 picture plates in this text, which include the front cover and backpiece of the book. The photography is so clear that the fading of one page onto the next or the bleed-through from the backside can clearly be seen; the photographs are not retouched for this purpose. All are in Hebrew. As this is a photographic reproduction, there are no textual notes, footnotes or other inserted text as a guide -- what you see is what you get.
This is not a book for the average Bible reader. Even more advanced biblical scholars will likely not need or come across this text. However, for those whose study requires comparison of texts, study of transmission and integrity of the text, this is a very worthwhile text. It is one that would make a fine gift to the libraries of churches, synagogues, seminaries and religious schools. It is a massive book, one that would look good on a lectern or on display in a museum or library. Even the facsimile copy is a work of art.