“John James Audubonâ€™sÂ 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 toÂ The Economist, a true list of the ten most valuable single books ever sold would have to include five copies ofÂ The Birds of America. Though Christieâ€™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,Â 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 â€” $3.98 million) make the list. Amazon won that record-breaking Sotheby’sÂ auction, and even has a link where the curious can see high resolution photos and many links: Â 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 Â -Â The Codex Leicester,Â Leonardo da Vinci Â ($30.8 million)
“The most famous of da Vinciâ€™s scientific journals, the 72-page notebook is filled with the great thinkerâ€™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 â€” he had the book scanned and turned into a screensaver distributed with Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95.
NPR collects some other interesting trivia about Birds here.
By the way, here’s a link to a handy graphic from The Economist: “Most Expensive Books Sold at Auction“