Most Expensive Printed Books in the World

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The most expensive books in the world

Printing links the present with forever. It carries personal identity into realms unknown.

(Neil Postman)

The printing press is one of the most important inventions of all time. Try to comprehend a world without this luxury? The printing press is an important part of all our lives, and the development of the printing press was world-changing.

It opened society up to more communication, allowing people, for the first time, to share knowledge and information quickly. Scholars, politicians, and academics could share their writings, allowing the public to think for themselves and gain new information. Thanks to the printing press the world was opened to innovative ideas, philosophies, and educational material. This is the power of print.

The power of the printed word cannot be disputed, and many printed works have become extremely valuable.

Here, we look at some of the world’s most expensive printed books.

The First Book of Urizen – William Blake ($2.5 million)

The First Book of Urizen was originally printed in 1794. The book is often considered one of Blake’s most important pieces in his series of prophetic works. There are only 8 known surviving copies from the original print run, and one of these was purchased by a private collector for a whopping $2.5 million!

The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K Rowling ($3.98 million)

This book is the same children’s book that features in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Before it became a mass market paperback, J.K Rowling made 7 original copies of the book, each one handwritten and illustrated by Rowling herself!

6 of the copies were given to editors and friends, and in 2007 the 7th book was put up for auction. It was purchased by for an incredible $3.98 million. This made the book the most expensive modern-day manuscript ever bought at auction. In true J.K Rowling style, the money made from the book was given to The Children’s Voice charity.

Geographica Cosmographia – Claudius Ptolemy ($4 million)

The Geographia Cosmographia is the world’s first printed atlas. It is also the first book to use engraved illustrations. In 2006, the print sold at Sotheby’s London for $4 million.

Trait des arbres fruitier a Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau ($4.5 million)

Who would have thought that a book with niche content would be worth millions?

Without a doubt, the most expensive book to ever be written about fruit trees, a copy of this visually rich, five volume set of text and stunning illustrations, sold for $4.5 million in 2006.

The Gutenberg Bible – $4.9 million

The Gutenberg Bible

The Gutenberg bible sold for $4.9 million in 1987. It was the first book printed on Johann Gutenberg’s printing press (the first book to ever be printed with movable type) – so it makes sense it went for so much loot!

First Folio – William Shakespeare ($6 million)

The original price of William Shakespeare’s First Folio was one Pound, and today, well-preserved copies are the most highly prized finds among book enthusiasts.

There is only an estimated 228 copies of the original First Folio left and in 2001, co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, purchased a copy for $6, 166, 000 at Christie’s New York.

The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer ($7.5 million)

In 1998 a first addition of the 15th Century book sold for $7.5 million at Christie’s in London. This particular first edition was originally purchased by Earl Fitzwilliam for a mere $6 – how is that for growing your investment?!

There are 12 known copies of the original print run, out of the 1477 printed.

Birds of America – James Audubon ($11.5 million)

Christie’s auctioned off a copy of Birds of America for $8, 802, 500. There are only 119 copies left of the original print! Ten years later, another one of the first edition prints was sold at Sotheby’s in London for $11.5 million.

The Gospels of Henry the Lion – Order of Saint Benedict ($11.7 million)

The Gospels of Henry the Lion was originally commissioned by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony. They were commissioned to sit at the alter of the Virgin Mary at Brunswick Cathedral. In 1983, the gospel print was purchased by the German government at Sotheby’s of London for $11.7 million.

With 226 pages, including 50 pages of illustration, the book is deemed a masterpiece of the 12th Century.

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