The world’s most expensive book as of now is a copy of a translation of the Bay Psalm Book, which sold this week at auction for more than $14 million, according to Business Insider. Sotheby’s (NYSE:BID) sold the book on Tuesday for $14.165 million, although that’s still a steal than what the auction house had valued it at. Before the auction, Sotheby’s said it was worth between $15 million and $30 million.
Sotheby’s opened the bidding at $16 million, and it lasted for just a few minutes. The buyer’s identity was not released.
The Bay Psalm Book becomes world’s most expensive book
So what is the Bay Psalm Book, anyway? It is a translation of psalms from the Bible that was printed by Puritan settlers in Massachusetts back in 1640. They came to what is now the U.S. seeking freedom of religion. Part of that freedom was creating their own translation of the Book of Psalms from the original Hebrew language.
David Redden, who heads up Sothebys (NYSE:BID)’s books division, called the Bay Psalm Book “a mythical rarity” and “too rare to collect.” He said it hasn’t been up for auction for over two generations—not since 1947. At that time, a different copy sold for just $151,000, which at that time made it the world’s most expensive book, even beating sales of the Gutenberg Bible and Shakespeare’s First Folio.
Why the Bay Psalm Book is important
Aside from its religious importance, the Bay Psalm Book was the very first book printed in North America. Redden said it is also significant because it was one of the precursors to Lexington and Concord and eventually, to America’s push for independence from Great Britain. Along with that independence, New England declared itself to be independent from the Church of England.
Business Insider reports that Selby Kiffer of Sotheby’s special projects division called the book “one of the greatest artifacts of American history.” There were 1,700 original copies of the 1640 edition, and only 11 of them have survived in collections like the Harvard College Library and the Library of Congress.
The previous most expensive book
The world’s most expensive book had previously been John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which was sold in December 2010, also at Sothebys (NYSE:BID). That book sold for $11.5 million.