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



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
Vocabulary List
colonistsliteralmagna cartamanuscriptmayflowernondescriptparishionersprefaceprofuselypsalmsriddled
  • eggos
    eggosSaturday, October 19, 2019 at 1:04 pm
    wow! lotta money
    • rstroub27
      rstroub27Sunday, October 28, 2018 at 7:14 am
      I would spend it on my family, a new phone, books from the bookstore, and save for a car, college, and life ahead
      • hi im a robotMonday, October 23, 2017 at 9:36 am
        i think i would steel it
        • hiMonday, October 23, 2017 at 9:32 am
          • hiMonday, October 23, 2017 at 9:31 am
            i would buy the book
            • artjunkie
              artjunkieWednesday, September 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm
              I would spend my money on buying tons of beautiful books and paintings. And shoes........Lots and lots of shoes...............
              • gap430
                gap430Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 2:44 pm
                just for that book?
                • headream100
                  headream100Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 7:13 pm
                  I would spend my $14.2 million USD on books and kitty cat supplies for my cat. As for the books, I won't buy the incredibly expensive or collectible ones, just normal books you can get for like, 10 dollars at the bookstore. As for the kitty stuff, that would include kitty toys, kitty food, kitty snacks, kitty clothes, and maybe even a huge luxurious cat tower.
                  • headream100
                    headream100Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 7:14 pm
                    But I obviously don't have that money so what use is it planning now?
                  • aggie
                    aggieMonday, February 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm
                    • GermanGirlFriday, January 31, 2014 at 12:21 pm
                      I would spend it on collage, house,car for when I get older . I would also spend it on furniture or food. Maybe clothes but not a book that has misspelled words that you don't know at all what it means so I would defiantly not spend it on a book you will never read!