First Book Printed In British North America Is Now World's Most Expensive!

By - 456 words


Reading Level

Listen to Article

A nondescript battered book filled with spelling errors just became the world's most expensive printed book. On Tuesday, November 26th, US philanthropist David ­Rubenstein paid $14.2 million USD to own a copy of the first book printed in British North America - The Whole Book of Psalmes or as it is better known today, the Bay Psalm Book.

Published in 1640, about twenty years after the Mayflower and its 102 passengers left Plymouth, England for a journey to the 'New World,' it is one of only eleven copies remaining from the seventeen hundred, originally printed.

What makes it even more precious is that prior to this, only one has come up for sale in the last 100 years. Bought in 1947 by Yale University, it was auctioned for what now seems like a bargain basement price of $151,000 USD. However 66 years ago, that was a record amount paid for any book.

This most recent copy is one of two owned by Boston's Old South Church, who decided to sell it to raise money for their charitable foundation. And whilst it fetched a record breaking price, some parishioners who had expected the rare copy to sell for between $20 - $30 million USD, were disappointed.

The Bay Psalm Book, the first to be printed in British America's inaugural print shop, a little house in Cambridge, MA, was a literal translation from Hebrew to English by Colonists wishing to provide a version that was more faithful to the original 150 psalms. It was riddled with typographical errors beginning from the word PSALM, which was spelt correctly on the left-hand pages, but mistakenly typed in as PSALMES on the right-hand. This fact was not lost on the publishers, who apologized profusely in the preface that was also rampant with spelling errors. It was no wonder that the book had to be reprinted and revised nine times, in the 17th century alone.

But these minor mistakes did not appear to matter to American billionaire David Rubenstein who bid for the book via phone from Australia and plans to share it with the general public by loaning it to libraries around the world. An avid history buff, he also owns one of the 17 remaining copies of the Magna Carta - the 800-year-old royal manuscript that sets out the rights of man, which he purchased for $21.3 million USD, in 2007.

Prior to this, the most expensive printed book sold was James Audubon's 'Birds of America', which fetched $11.5mm USD in 2010. As for the most expensive book ever sold? That honor goes to Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Leicester, a 72-page collection of largely scientific writings that was purchased by Bill Gates in 1994, for $31 million USD.


Cite Article
Learn Keywords in this Article