List of most expensive books and manuscripts

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This is a list of the highest known prices paid for books, comic books, manuscripts, and documents. The earliest sale on the list is of the Gospels of Henry the Lion, in 1983. Most of the books were originally published between 1600 and 1850. The most common book on the list is John J. Audubon's The Birds of America. J. K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which was auctioned off for charity in 2007, is the most expensive book sold from the present century.

Table of book sales[edit]

Adjusted price
(in millions)
Original price
(in millions)
Title Author Year Date of sale Image Refs
$49.8 $30.8 Codex Leicester

Original and only copy of the notebook

da Vinci, LeonardoLeonardo da Vinci 1500s November 1994 Vinci - Hammer 2A.jpg [1]
$24.6 $21.3 Magna Carta

Original exemplar

1297[2] December 2007 Magna Carta (British Library Cotton MS Augustus II.106).jpg [3]
$14.9 $14.3 St Cuthbert Gospel Unknown 7th century April 2012 St Cuthbert Gospel - f.1.jpg [4]
$14.6 $14.2 Bay Psalm Book

First book printed in what is now the United States.

1640 November 2013 Bay Psalm Book LoC.png [5]
$19.3 $13.4 Rothschild Prayerbook (a.k.a. Rothschild Hours) - c. 1500-20 July 1999 Rothschild2.jpg [6]
$28.1 $11.7 Gospels of Henry the Lion

Original and only copy

Order of Saint Benedict 1175 December 1983 Evangeliar heinrich des loewen.jpg [7]
$12.6 $11.5 The Birds of America

One of 119 complete copies known to exist

Audubon, John JamesJohn James Audubon 1827–1838 December 2010 Audubon-Flamingo.jpg [8]
$12.2 $8.8 The Birds of America

One of 119 complete copies known to exist

Audubon, John JamesJohn James Audubon 1827–1838 2000 Campephilus principalisAWP066AA2.jpg [9]
$8.2 $7.9 The Birds of America

One of 119 complete copies known to exist

Audubon, John JamesJohn James Audubon 1827–1838 January 2012 Zenaida macrouraAWP17AA.jpg [9]
$11.0 $7.5 The Canterbury Tales

First printed edition

Chaucer, GeoffreyGeoffrey Chaucer 1478 1998 Hengwrt Chaucer (f.2.r) title page.jpg [10]
$8.3 $6.1 Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies (a.k.a. First Folio) Shakespeare, WilliamWilliam Shakespeare 1623 2001 Title page William Shakespeare's First Folio 1623.jpg
$11.1 $5.0 Les Liliacées Redouté, Pierre-JosephPierre-Joseph Redouté 1802 1985 Lilium superbum (Lithographie, Pierre-Joseph Redoute).jpg [11]
$10.3 $4.9 Gutenberg Bible 1450–1455 1987 Gutenberg bible Old Testament Epistle of St Jerome.jpg [10]
$5.3 $4.5 Traité des Arbres Fruitiers Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau 1768 2006 Pomme rambour.jpg [12]
$4.7 $4.3 Rules of basketball

Original document written by James Naismith

James Naismith 1892 December 2010 [13]
$4.5 $3.9 The Tales of Beedle the Bard J. K. Rowling unknown[14] December 2007 [15]
$4.2 $3.5 Geographia Cosmographia Ptolemy, ClaudiusClaudius Ptolemy 1477 October 2006 La Cosmographie de Claude Ptolemée.djvu [16]
$3.2 $3.2 Action Comics 1 Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster 1938 August 2014 [17]
$3.6 $2.5 The First Book of Urizen William Blake 1794 April 1999 The Book of Urizen, copy G object 1 The Book of Urizen.jpg [18]
$2.7 $2.46 Complete set of folio bird books (40 volumes) Gould, JohnJohn Gould 1800s April 2008 BayOwlGould.jpg [19]
$5.1 $2.42[20] Biblia pauperum (The Gotha-Doheny Copy) 1460–1470 22 October 1987 BibliaPauperum.jpg [21]
$2.9 $2.4 Doria Atlas 1570-1620[22] 2005 [23]
$3.9 $2.2 United States Declaration of Independence

Original signed manuscript

1776 1991 United States Declaration of Independence.jpg
$2.8 $1.9 De revolutionibus orbium coelestium Copernicus, NicolausNicolaus Copernicus 1543 1998 Nicolai Copernici torinensis De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.djvu
$2.9 $1.5 Don Quixote Cervantes, Miguel deMiguel de Cervantes 1605–1615 1989 Cervantes Don Quixote 1605.gif
$2.2 $1.5 De humani corporis fabrica Vesalius, AndreasAndreas Vesalius 1543 1998 Vesalius Fabrica fronticepiece.jpg
$2.1 $1.4 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Carroll, LewisLewis Carroll 1865 1998 AlicesAdventuresInWonderlandTitlePage.jpg
$2.4 $1.3 The Federalist Hamilton, AlexanderAlexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison 1788 1990 The Federalist (1st ed, 1788, vol I, title page) - 02.jpg

Interactive graph[edit]

Sale of the Most Expensive Books
Sale of the Most Expensive Books

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Kiss, Jemima. Bill Gates on giving away his fortune - and Mark Zuckerberg's engagement?. The Guardian. 13 June 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  2. ^ Believed to be a copy of a copy of the first Magna Carta.
  3. ^ Gleick, James. Keeping It Real. The New York Times. 6 January 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  4. ^ The British Library pays $14m for oldest European book. BBC News. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  5. ^ BBC. Bay Psalm Book is most expensive printed work at $14.2m. BBC News. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  6. ^ The Economist. 8142. 353. Economist Newspaper Limited. 1999. pp. 99/. 
  7. ^ Garcia, Guy. People: Dec. 19, 1983. BBC News. 19 December 1983. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  8. ^ Rohrer, Finlo. Audubon's Birds of America: The world's most expensive book. BBC News. 8 December 2010. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  9. ^ a b Temple, Emily. The 10 Most Expensive Books in the World. The Atlantic. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  10. ^ a b Canterbury Tales fetches record £4.6m. BBC News. 9 July 1998. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  11. ^ "REDOUTE WATERCOLORS AUCTIONED TO SYNDICATE". 21 November 1985. Retrieved 3 April 2016. 
  12. ^ The Most Expensive Books Ever Sold. Know Your Money Blog. 19 February 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  13. ^ Roth, Richard. Basketball 'bible' auction sets sports memorabilia record. CNN. 11 December 2010. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  14. ^ Rowling began writing the stories soon after finishing work on the seventh Harry Potter novel. Initially, she created six manuscripts, each with a distinctive stone set into the binding, for presentation to individuals instrumental in helping her create the Potter series. The seventh manuscript, known as "The Moonstone" edition, is the copy referred to here which was sold at auction to benefit charity.
  15. ^ Rare JK Rowling book fetches £2m. BBC News. 13 December 2007. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  16. ^ Old atlas breaks auction record. BBC News. 10 October 2006. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  17. ^ Superman's Action Comics No. 1 sells for record $3.2 million on eBay. CNET. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  18. ^ Kotter, Holland. Rare Blake Book Sells for $2.5 Million at Sotheby's. The New York Times. 24 April 1999. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  19. ^ Christie?s. "GOULD, John (1804-1881). A complete set of the celebrated folio bird books formed by Gould's close acquaintance, George Savile Foljambe (1800-1869).". Retrieved 3 April 2016. 
  20. ^ "Gutenberg Bible Is Sold for Record $4.9 Million". latimes. Retrieved 3 April 2016. 
  21. ^ Bodleian Library; Alan Edward Coates (2005). A Catalogue of Books Printed in the Fifteenth Century Now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford: Blockbooks ; woodcut and metalcut single sheets ; A. Oxford University Press. pp. 16–. ISBN 978-0-19-951905-7. 
  22. ^ "doria atlas. </s - books & manuscripts - sotheby's l05415lot38tc2en". Retrieved 3 April 2016. 
  23. ^ Simon Garfield (4 October 2012). On The Map: Why the world looks the way it does. Profile Books. pp. 97–. ISBN 1-84765-855-5.