Can you think of any book that can be sold in millions of dollars? Yes, some people have spent such a huge amount just for a single book. So let’s have a look at the most expensive books that have been sold all around the world.
- Codex Leicester, Leonardo da Vinci ($30.8 million)
It is an immense collection of scientific writings done by Leonardo da Vinci. This typescript was sold to Bill Gates at Christie’s auction house in New York for $30.8 million.
Now the question that strikes everyone’s mind is what made Mr. Bill Gates pay such a huge amount. This book provides an unprecedented interpretation of the link between art and science and the creativity of the scientific process. This work is a blend of Leonardo’s observations and theories on astronomy; the properties of water, rocks, and fossils; air, and celestial light. It includes pretty interesting topics, such as:
# the logic behind the availability of fossils on mountains. Hundreds of years before the tectonic plates received a universal acceptance; Leonardo had a belief that the mountains had previously formed sea beds, which were gradually lifted until they formed mountains,
# a very important observation regarding the movement of water. Leonardo da Vinci wrote about the flow of water in rivers, and the way it is affected by different obstacles in its way. He also made recommendations about bridge construction and erosion, and
# speculation that the Moon’s surface is covered by water, which reflects light from the Sun.
- The Magna Carta (original exemplar) ($21.2 million)
Magna Carta Libertatum is a charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede. It is crucial because it is one of only four surviving exemplifications of the 1215 text that exhibits its rich history. The sole purpose of this work was to maintain peace. The word ‘Magna Carta’ literally means ‘The Great Charter’ and it established the principle that everyone, including the king, is subject to the law, and assures the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial. Outlined in the agreement are the rights of the church, access to swift justice, and the protection of the barons from illegal imprisonment. Currently, it is worth $21.2 million.
- The St. Cuthbert Gospel ($14.3 million)
The St. Cuthbert Gospel is an early 8th-century pocket gospel book which is written in Latin. Also known as The Stonyhurst Gospel, this book is one of the most valuable religious books Urizen in the world. The British Library has acquired this book for $14.3 million after the find raising campaign in the library’s history, but now the book is kept for public display in a Gallery. It is rarest of its kind, which, along with its age, adds to its value. It is one of the most protected books of its age. Its striking features are-
# Its finely decorated leather binding is the earliest known Western bookbinding to survive, and
# with a page size of 5.4 inches x 3.6 inches, the St Cuthbert Gospel is one of the smallest surviving Anglo-Saxon manuscripts.
- Bay Psalm Book ($14 million)
What makes this book by Richard Mather, John Eliot, and Thomas Weld so unique that it is the first book ever printed in now the United States. As per the records, as of now, there are just 11 copies of the Bay Psalm Book which are distributed among the universities of the nation and some renowned public libraries. It was bought by an American financier David Rubenstein from Old South Church in Boston against a huge amount of $14 million.
- Rothschild Prayer Book ($13.4 million)
Purchased by an Australian businessman, Kerry Stokes, from an auction at Christie’s New York by paying an immense amount of $13.4 million, is an extreme rate book. Currently at a display in the National Library of Australia, this book is a very influential manuscript book of hours and is compiled by numerous artists. It is a part of an elite group of manuscripts-deluxe completed between 1490 and 1520.
- Birds of America, James Audubon ($11.5 million)
There are only 119 existing complete first edition copies of the ‘Birds of America’. One of the four-volume sets was sold in auction in 2010 for the whopping $11.5 million.
- Gospels of Henry the Lion – $11.4 million: Originally commissioned by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, for the altar of the Virgin Mary at the Brunswick Cathedral, this gospel book was purchased by the German government at Sotheby’s of London in 1983 for £8,140,000, or about $11.4 million (at the time). At 266 pages, including 50 full-page illustrations, the book is considered a masterpiece of the 12th century Romanesque illuminated manuscript.
- The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer — $7.5 million: A first edition of the 15th century bawd-fest sold for £4.6m (or about $7.5 million at the time) at Christie’s in London in 1998. Of the dozen known copies of the 1477 first edition, this was the last to be held privately, and was originally purchased for £6 by the first Earl Fitzwilliam at the sale of John Radcliffe’s library at Christie’s in 1776. Talk about growing your investment.
- First Folio, William Shakespeare — $6.2 million: Though the First Folio’s original price was a single pound (one or two more if you wanted it bound in leather or otherwise adorned), intact copies are now among the most highly prized finds among book collectors, with only an estimated 228 (out of an original 750) left in existence. In 2001, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen purchased a copy for $6,166,000 at Christie’s New York.
- The Gutenberg Bible — $4.9 million: A copy of the Gutenberg Bible sold in 1987 for a then-record $4.9 million at Christie’s New York. Only 48 of the books — the first to be printed with movable type — exist in the world.
- Traité des arbres fruitiers [Treatise on Fruit Trees] by Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau, illustrated by Pierre Antoine Poiteau and Pierre Jean François Turpin — $4.5 million: Definitely one the most expensive book ever written about fruit trees (featuring sixteen different varieties!), a copy of this lush, five volume set of illustrations and text sold for about $4.5 million in 2006.
- Geographia Cosmographia, Claudius Ptolemy — $4 million: The world’s first printed atlas, and the world’s first book to make use of engraved illustrations, Ptolemy’s 1477 Cosmographia sold at Sotheby’s London in 2006 for £2,136,000, or almost $4 million at the time.
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling — $3.98 million: Before this book, meant to be the same children’s book that figures heavily in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, became a mass-market paperback, J.K. Rowling created seven original copies, each one handwritten and illustrated by Rowling herself. Six were given to friends and editors, but in 2007, one of the seven was put up for auction. It was snapped up by Amazon.com for a whopping $3.98 million.
- The First Book of Urizen, William Blake — $2.5 million: Originally printed in 1794, The First Book of Urizen is one of the major pieces (and some say the most important) in Blake’s series of prophetic works. One of only eight known surviving copies was sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1999 for $2.5 million to a private collector.