Most expensive printed book sells for Rs 88 crore

Published: Nov 28, 2013, 00:46 IST | Agencies |

A tiny book of psalms from 1640, believed to be the first book printed in what's now the United States, sold for just under $14.2 million (Rs 88 crore) on Tuesday, setting an auction record for a printed book.

The Bay Psalm Book, which was auctioned at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, had a pre-sale estimate of $15 million to $30 million. A copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America was the previous record-holder, selling for $11.5 million (Rs 71 crore) at Sotheby’s in 2010.

Precious pages: The Bay Psalm Book was printed in 1640 and only 11 copies of the book survive. Pic/AFP

Only 11 copies of the Bay Psalm Book survive in varying degrees of completeness. The book sold at Sotheby’s was one of two owned by Boston’s Old South Church, which voted to sell it to increase its grants and ministries.

The book was bought over the phone by American businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein, who plans to lend it to libraries around the country.

The sale price included the buyer’s premium. The book was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony just 20 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth.

It was supposed to be a faithful translation into English of the original Hebrew psalms -- puritans believed selected paraphrases would compromise their salvation. The 1,700 copies were printed on a press shipped from London.

Did you know?

>> The Leonardo da Vinci Codex Hammer, a personal notebook of scientific writings and diagrams, remains the world’s most expensive book, being sold at Christie’s auction house in 1994 for $30.8 million (Rs 191 crore)

>> A copy of John James Audubon’s Birds Of America sold for $11.5m at Sotheby’s in 2010.

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