“The 10 Most Expensive Books in the World”

“John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which already holds the title of most valuable printed book in the world, having sold for about $11.5 million in 2010. In fact, according to The Economist, a true list of the ten most valuable single books ever sold would have to include five copies of The Birds of America. Though Christie’s is playing their cards close to the vest and estimating a $7 to $10 million sale, today could see a new record for the book.”

(Update: The copy of Birds of America in question sold for the bullish sum of $7.9 million)

So, for the bookish, multi-multimillionaire sorts, there’s the first edition of The Canterbury Tales ($7.5 million, only a few dozen in existence) Shakespeare’s First Folio ($6 million, approximately 228 copies in existence), and The Gutenberg Bible ($4.9 million, approximately 48 copies in existence).

By the way, I was surprised to see J.K. Rowling (The Tales of Beedle the Bard — $3.98 million) make the list. Amazon won that record-breaking Sotheby’s auction, and even has a link where the curious can see high resolution photos and many links:  http://www.amazon.com/beedlebard

The single most expensive? It’s more of a notebook than a book, but we can debate our definition of what a “book” is later  - The Codex Leicester, Leonardo da Vinci  ($30.8 million)

“The most famous of da Vinci’s scientific journals, the 72-page notebook is filled with the great thinker’s handwritten musings and theories on everything from fossils to the movement of water to what makes the moon glow … In 1994, Bill Gates nabbed the journal at auction for $30,800,000, making it the most expensive book ever purchased. But hey, at least Gates put his purchase to good use — he had the book scanned and turned into a screensaver distributed with Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95.


  1. NPR collects some other interesting trivia about Birds here.

  2. By the way, here’s a link to a handy graphic from The Economist: “Most Expensive Books Sold at Auction


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