Books are the true pride of mankind. Not surprisingly, the most expensive and rare specimens cost millions of dollars. Today, out of the ten most expensive books, three are manuscripts and seven are printed materials.
Record at the price belongs to the manuscript work of Leonardo da Vinci “Leicester Code.” In 1994, the book was sold at Christie’s for 30.8 million dollars. By today’s rate this amount is already almost 45 million.
This record is unlikely to be broken in the near future, but the record price for a printed book can be updated pretty soon. The auction house Sotheby’s put up for auction a book that can be the most expensive in history, and the youngest in the prestigious ten.
After all, this is a complete copy of the first edition of the book by American naturalist, animal painter and ornithologist John James Audubon “Birds of America.” Creation is not even 200 years old, but it has become a rarity. The book is owned by the heirs of the English Baron Frederick Fermor-Hesket, who was a famous bibliophile.
At the same auction of interest and cause other books from his collection. So, a rare copy of the first edition of William Shakespeare’s plays is estimated at $ 1.5-2.3 million.
The book was released in 1623 with a circulation of 720 copies, today only 219 of them have survived. It was one of them, the best security and was sold at that auction for 5.2 million dollars. The rest of the members of our honorary list did not excite any rich bibliophile by the facts of their generation at the auction.
“Leicester Code” by Leonardo da Vinci.
As already mentioned, this book was sold in 1994 for $ 30.8 million. In fact, this notebook, in which the great Leonardo recorded his records during his life in Milan in 1506-1510. The manuscript contains only 18 sheets of paper, which are written from two sides. At the same time they are composed in such a way that they form a notebook with 72 pages. Curious, but Leonardo kept his notes with his own mirror font. Read the written could have been only using a mirror. Notes of the great inventor are devoted to those phenomena, which he reflected at that time – about the luminescence of the moon and the nature of the water currents in rivers, about fossils and the composition of minerals … There are also a lot of mathematical calculations, drawings and diagrams in the notebook. Its name was given to the code in honor of the Earl of Leicester, who acquired the book in 1717. His heirs kept their priceless labor until 1980, until it was bought out by a well-known industrialist and collector Armand Hammer. At one time the manuscript was even called the “Hammer Code.” After the death of this owner in 1994, the book was put up for auction. It was purchased by the founder of the firm “Microsoft” Bill Gates. The new owner put forward an initiative according to which the “Leicester Code” is now constantly exhibited in various museums around the world.
“The Gospel of Henry the Lion”.
The last time this book appeared at auction in 1983. Then Sotheby’s was able to help out for her 12.4 million dollars, which is twice as much as the current rates. The version of the Gospel is hand-written, it was made in 1188 by the order of Henry the Lion (1129-1195). This Duke of Bavaria and Saxony was a representative of the Velf dynasty, which played a prominent role in the political life of Europe for several centuries. The manuscript contains four Gospels, 226 pages in total. Monks and novices of the Benedictine Abbey Helmarshausen adorned the book in a unique style. After the Duke of Heinrich Leo died, for a long time it was believed that the book was lost. However, it appeared in public in the XIX century in Prague. It was immediately acquired by the King of Hanover, George V. This is not surprising, because it is the Duke of Henry who is considered the founder of this German city. But just five years later, King George was overthrown, having fled to Austria and taking with him a priceless manuscript. The relic was lost again.But in 1983, at an auction Sotheby’s anonymous seller exhibited the “Gospel of Henry the Lion” for auction. The result of the auction gave a rarity to the new owner – the German Federal Government. The governments of Lower Saxony and Bavaria, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation also took part in the financing. Now a valuable book is stored in the city library named after the Duke of August, that in the German Wolfenbüttel.
“Birds of America” by John James Audubon.
The last time one of the copies of this book was put up for sale at Christie’s in 2000. Then the price of the book was $ 8.8 million, which, taking into account inflation, is already 11 million. This is the most expensive printed edition, but the record soon fell – after all, other copies of this rare book are periodically exhibited at the auction. At the end of 2010 in London, a copy from the first edition was sold for 11.5 million, setting a new benchmark. What is the uniqueness of this printed book? The fact is that it is unusual in many ways. The first edition was printed in the USA in 1827-1838, it numbered only 200 copies. The very format of the book was gigantic – the author called it even “double elephant folio”. Each page in height was about 127 centimeters. The full copy contained 35 hand-printed prints of size 90 to 60 centimeters, which depicted the birds of the country in full size. Today we know of the existence of only 119 complete copies of the book. At the same time, only 11 of them are in private collections. The rest are kept in the best museums in the world. Not surprisingly, the appearance of such a book on sale is a rarity, regarded only as a sensation.
“Canterbury Tales” by Jeffrey Chaucer.
The cost of this book at Christie’s auction in 1998 was $ 7.5 million, at today’s prices it is already 9.9 million. At the auction was a unique copy of the edition of the “Canterbury Tales” by Jeffrey Chaucer. He is called the father of English poetry and generally one of the founders of English literature. The book was published in 1477 by the first printer William Caxton in Westminster Abbey. Up to our time, only 12 copies of the first edition have reached. Only one book, the one sold by Christie’s, is privately owned. The book has its own rich history. For the first time, she appeared on the auction in 1776, then the same Christie’s bailed out for her 6 pounds. And in 1998, the book’s owner was a group of London booksellers.
“Bestiary of the Duke of Northumberland”.
This hand-written bestiary was sold at Sotheby’s in 1990 for 5.85 million dollars (9.6 million at current prices). Handwritten book is a medieval encyclopedia of the entire animal world. Here on 148 pages, in addition to the text, there are 112 color images of not only real, but also fictional creatures. The name of the author of this work remained unknown, the date of the creation of the book dates back to 1250-1260. English bestarians like this in the world have survived no more than 40 pieces, the market appearance of one of them – a great rarity. Experts of the auction house in 1990 explained that before that, Bestiary appeared on sale only in 1889. Sold the same copy of the Duke of Northumberland last of those who remained in private hands, and not in the possession of museums. In 1990, a new owner of a valuable book became a private collector from the United States, whose name remained unknown.
“The Bible” by Gutenberg.
In 1987 Christie’s auction sold this book for 5.4 million (today it’s 10.2 million). A copy of the Bible is unique, it was published by the first printer Johann Guttenberg. This is the oldest of books printed with a set of moving letters. This copy is a 42-line version in in folio format. There is also a 36-line version, known as the Bamberg Bible. Sold in 1987, the Bible is known among bibliophiles as well as the “Mazarin Bible.”It was among the documents of the first French minister and Cardinal Giulio Mazarini that in 1760 this book was first discovered. The Gutenberg Museum believes that at the beginning of the 1450s only 180 copies of the 42-line Bible were printed, up to now 48 of them have reached, and 21 – in its entirety. This same Bible, sold at auction, was incomplete, it was only the first volume. The buyer was the Japanese company Maruzen Corporation. Now a valuable copy is stored in the library of Keio University.
“First Folio: Comedy, Chronicles and Tragedy” by William Shakespeare.
The book flashed at the auction Sotheby’s relatively recently – in 2006. Then its price was 5.2 million dollars, for the past time it has risen in price by 300 thousand. A valuable lot was a copy published in 1623 the very first edition of William Shakespeare’s plays. They released the book John Hemming and Henry Condel, participants in the troupe of the great playwright. “The first folio” is a short title of the book adopted among bibliophiles. And the full name sounds like “Mr. William Shakespeare’s comedy, chronicles and tragedy., Printed from accurate and authentic texts.” The publication included 36 Shakespearean plays, that is, almost everything he wrote in this genre. The exception was “Pericles” and “Two noble relatives”. To date, only 40 complete samples of the first edition have survived. At the same time in private hands there are only two of them, one of which was sold in 2006.
“About fruit trees” Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau.
This book was sold in 2006 in Brussels at the Pierre Bergé & Associés auction. The price was $ 4.5 million and has since grown by 300,000. The work belongs to Henri Louis Duhamel du Montceau, who wrote about fruit trees. The French chemist, agronomist and member of the Academy of Sciences lived a fruitful life (1700-1782), which crowned this book. It collected and summed up almost all of the scientist’s thirty-year observations and descriptions of his experiments with fruit trees. The two-volume edition is beautifully decorated, several famous artists of that time worked on it at once. They depicted 16 species of fruit trees, their fruits, leaves and seeds. At one time, this copy was purchased for the personal library of King Louis XV, for this he was given a particularly luxurious appearance, and the cover was gilded.
“Geography” or “Cosmography” of Ptolemy.
In the same 2006, Sotheby’s sold for this 3.99 million dollars (4.3 million now) this rare book. This is the world’s first printed atlas, created in 1477 in Italian Bologna, based on the samples of the maps of Claudius Ptolemy. This ancient Greek mathematician and astronomer lived around in 87-165 years. Atlas previously belonged to the famous British book collector Lord Vardington, in the collection of which there were about 700 ancient books and more than 60 thousand maps. The pearl of the collection was the first edition of “Geography”. The fire in the country house in 2004 hardly destroyed the rarity, relatives and neighbors of the collector came to their aid. But a year later the lord died, and his heirs decided to sell Cosmography at an auction.
The Hebrew Bible.
This book was sold in 1989 at Sotheby’s. Its price was then $ 3.18 million, today it would have been 5.5 million. The book of the Jewish Holy Scriptures is called by Jewish theologians Tanakh. It consists of 24 books in three sections: Torah, Neviim and Ktuvim. The content of the Hebrew Bible is almost entirely in accordance with the Old Testament. The same copy was published in Babylon in the 9th-10th centuries, being one of the oldest and certainly the most expensive manuscript in Hebrew.