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  • Life - Style
  • Updated: January 30, 2023

Ten Most Expensive Books In The World

Ten Most Expensive Books In The World

Books are an essential part of human life and existence and they have helped in human development right from time immemorial.

The greatest significant development in human evolution is likely the use of books, which dates back hundreds of years.

Many people will wonder why these books should be so expensive given all the technology we have in the 21st century today which we can use to access books. 

Well, the money being paid for these books may not be in the book's content itself but the era in which it was written, the person who wrote it, the scribble used in writing these books, the type of papyrus scrolls used in writing the books among several others. 

Therefore, the books in this article are the most expensive in the world due to the reasons above and other important significance which will be discussed while listing these books. 


10. William Shakespeare’s first folio of Comedies, Histories & Tragedies - $8.2 Million.

The collection of William Shakespeare's plays, known as the First Folio, is the world's tenth most expensive book.

The First Folio, a compilation of William Shakespeare's plays, is widely recognised as one of the most important publications ever produced in the English language.

It is particularly important since it was originally published in 1623 and is the only reliable source for 20 of the 36 published plays.

When it initially came out, the book was printed in 750 copies and priced between 15 shillings and a pound.

Because of its rarity, the First Folio is one of the most expensive printed books in existence today.

What is the pricing range? One copy was auctioned off in October 2001 for an astonishing $8.2 million at Christie's in New York.

 

9. George Washington’s Annotated Copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, 1789 - $10.2 million

It is one of the most important American publications and historical papers, containing a compilation of important records from the first Congress.

This version was privately held by George Washington, and it includes his handwritten annotations and notes during his first year as president.

The book, which had been in virtually pristine condition for more than 200 years, was purchased for a stunning $10.2 million at an auction in New York in 2012.

The Mount Vernon Ladies Association purchased the property, which also maintains and cares for George Washington's old estate of Mount Vernon.

 

8. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - $11 Million

Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a framing narrative, was composed in Middle English between 1387 and 1400.

Because of the use of a pilgrimage as a framing device, Chaucer was able to include individuals from a wide range of socioeconomic levels.

A knight, a prioress, a monk, a merchant, a lawyer, a Franklin, a scholarly clerk, a miller, a reeve, a pardoner, the wife of Bath, and many others are among them.

The diversity of socioeconomic strata and the framework of the storytelling competition allowed for the display of a wide range of literary genres.

Only a few copies of the original edition are known to exist, and one of them sold for a stunning $11.1 million at auction in London in 1998.

 

7. Birds of America John James Audubon - $12.6 Million


The Birds of America, written by naturalist and painter John James Audubon, has pictures of a broad variety of American birds.

Pieces of it were initially published as a series in Edinburgh and London between 1827 and 1838.

Some of the specimens illustrated in the work were sent to Audubon by John Kirk Townsend, who had gathered them on Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth's and Thomas Nuttall's 1834 journey, rather than all of them being species that Audubon had personally obtained.

The first edition of the book was published in Edinburgh and London between 1827 and 1838.

Because of the book's high creative value, it's not unexpected that the price paid for it by a London-based art dealer in 2010 grew to a respectable $12.6 million.


6. The Rothschild Prayerbook - $13 Million


The Rothschild Prayerbook is also one of the world's most expensive books.

The Rothschild Hours are an important book of hours created in Flemish illuminated text between the years 1500 and 1520.

It consists of 254 folios and sheets measuring 228 by 160 mm.

It was initially housed in the Austrian National Library in Vienna as Codex Vindobonensis S.N. 2844.

It has held the status of illuminated manuscript auction world record price since its sale in 1999.

It is now on display in the National Library of Australia after being acquired from Christie's New York in 2014 by Australian businessman Kerry Stokes.

It includes the work of numerous well-known miniaturists from the Ghent-Bruges school of Flemish illumination, who also worked on the Grimani Breviary, the Spinola Hours (Malibu), and other important manuscripts of the period.

The book was auctioned off twice, once by Christie's in New York in 2014 and once by the Austrian National Library in Vienna in 1999. Kerry Stokes, an Australian investor, paid a whopping $13.9 million for the property.

The book is currently on exhibit at the Australian National Library.


5. Bay Psalm Book - $14.5 Million

The Whole Book of Psalms Faithfully Translated into English Metre was originally printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This was the first book printed in British North America.

The psalms are translated into metrical English. Although some of the songs they were singing have been around for generations (for example, "Old 100th").

None of the translations is very professional, but their completion within 20 years of the Pilgrims' arrival in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is an impressive achievement.

It was in use for more than a century and went through several editions.

In November 2013, one of the eleven known surviving copies of the original edition was auctioned off for $14.2 million, setting a record for a printed book.


4. St. Cuthbert’s Gospel - $15.1 Million

Another of the most expensive books in the world is St. Cuthbert's Gospel, which costs $15 million.

The St. Cuthbert Gospel, a Latin-language pocket gospel book from the first half of the eighth century, is also known as the Stonyhurst Gospel or the St. Cuthbert Gospel of St. John.

The 94 vellum folios and the ornately decorated leather binding are in excellent condition for a book of this date, making it the earliest known Western bookbinding to have survived.

The St. Cuthbert Gospel is one of the tiniest surviving Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, measuring just 138 by 92 millimetres (5.4 in 3.6 in) per page.

The Latin Gospel of John, written in a script that has been praised for its beautiful simplicity, is an essentially undecorated text.

More specifically, it was intended to be put in the grave of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne in North East England, but it somehow made its way through centuries, ending up at an auction in 2011 and being sold to the British Library for a whopping $15.1 million.


3. Magna Carta Libertatum - $24.5 Million

Magna Carta, sometimes known as the "Great Charter" or just Magna Carta, was a royal charter of rights confirmed by King John of England on June 15, 1215, at Runnymede, near Windsor.

It was originally composed by Cardinal Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, to mediate a settlement between the unpopular monarch and a group of rebel lords.

It contained commitments to protect church privileges, protect barons from wrongful detention, provide them with swift justice, and limit feudal payments to the Crown.

Pope Innocent III cancelled the charter because neither party kept their promises, sparking the First Barons' War.

Magna Carta gained historical value while losing practical usefulness over time.

A financial one as well, considering that billionaire Ross Perot purchased the book in 2007 for the astonishing amount of $24.5 million.


2. The Gospels of Henry the Lion - $28 Million

The Gospel of Henry the Lion is the world's second most expensive book.

Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, designed it for the Virgin Mary altar in Brunswick Cathedral, also known as St. Blaise's Abbey.

The book is recognized as a masterpiece of Romanesque book illumination from the 12th century.

It was expressly commissioned for the duke at the Benedictine Helmarshausen Abbey.

In terms of structure, the church in Brunswick was built in 1173, and the shrine to the Virgin Mary was dedicated in 1188.

The majority of scholars originally attributed an 1175 or so creation date to the gospel book. However, the current agreement sets the creation date around 1188. 

The manuscript, which was 266 pages long and had 50 full-page illustrations, was auctioned off for £8,140,000 at Sotheby's in London on December 6, 1983.

As part of a German effort to conserve national treasures, the German government, the Bundesländer of Lower Saxony and Bavaria, the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, and individual donors increased the purchase price (largely from Brunswick).

The Codex Leicester, a manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci, was once the most expensive book in the world. 

 

1. Codex Leicester Leonardo Da Vinci - $49.4 Million

According to Forbes, the Codex Leicester is the most expensive book in the world, valued at more than $49.4 million.

It is a collection of scientific publications by Leonardo da Vinci. The Codex was named for Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, who purchased it in 1717.

On November 11, 1994, in New York, the manuscript was sold to Bill Gates for US$30,802,500 (about $56,314,494 in 2021) at Christie's auction house, setting the record for the fifth-highest sale price of any book.

The Codex reveals the curious mind of the premier Renaissance artist, scientist, and thinker.

It's also a great example of the connection between art and science, as well as the originality of the scientific approach.

The leather-bound book contains 36 sheets measuring 29 by 22 cm.

Rather than assuming the form of a single linear script, the manuscript is made up of Leonardo's observations and ideas about astronomy, the properties of water, rocks, fossils, air, and celestial light.

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