2014 Ten Most Expensive Books
2014 Ten Most Expensive Books
Traditionally, written word costs a bit, but in some cases may even cost millions. Meanwhile, since the mid 1980s the government, billionaires and private collectors often paid several times higher auction prices for individual manuscripts. In 2014, in the list of most expensive books in the history of mankind, appeared a new one. In particular, “Book of Hours” from the collection of the Rothschild family, sold at Christie’s auction in New York for $ 13.9 million. The manuscript, which broke its own record price established 15 years ago, has been recognized also the most expensive illuminated manuscripts. However, it is far from “Leicester Code” by Leonardo da Vinci, which reached $ 30.8 million at Christie’s auction in 1994 (now equivalent to $ 49.4 million). Besides, for many years “Leicester Code” heads the list of the most highly regarded of manuscripts and printed works.
The Book of records of Leonardo da Vinci about the world, written during his stay in Milan in 1506-1510. In the “Treatise on the water, earth and celestial bodies” the scientist wondered why the moon is shining, how the water flows in rivers, where the fossils come from, and what minerals are composed of. In the book, there are a lot of mathematical calculations, diagrams and drawings. The manuscript consists of 18 sheets of paper covered with “mirror” handwriting on both sides and folded so that together they form a 72-page notebook. “Leicester” was the code after the English Earl of Leicester bought the manuscript in 1717. In 1980, a notebook from the heirs of Count bought a famous industrialist, collector Armand Hammer, after which it was briefly called “Hammer Code”. After his death in 1994, the Code was put up for auction Christie’s, where it was bought by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. On his initiative, “Leicester Code” is permanently exhibited in museums around the world.
The only survived of the troubled times of the Inquisition Gospel. Created in 1188 by order of the Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, Henry the Lion, actively propagating Christianity in Europe. On 226 pages the monks and novices of Benedictine abbey Helmarkskhauzen wrote four Gospels. Discovered in the 19th century in Prague Manuscript, in 1861 was bought by King of Hanover George V. However, five years later the king fled to Austria, together with the book. And in 1983, an unknown seller put “Gospels of Henry the Lion” at auction Sotheby’s. German government bought the book, and now it is in the library of the duke August in the city of Wolfenbüttel.
Created in June 1215 Magna Carta was based on the requirements of the English aristocracy to King John of England after his many abuses of power. The document of 63 articles defended the legal rights and privileges of freemen of Medieval England and limited royal power. In particular, it regulated the issues of taxes, duties and feudal obligations, the judicial system and legal proceedings. And also the rights of the Church of England, towns and merchants, inheritance law and guardianship.
However, John Lackland soon refused to perform it. But many of the English monarchy later supported it. Noteworthy, four articles of the document remain in effect until now. So, it is the oldest part of the uncodified British constitution. In fact, 17 copies of the book have survived. David Rubenstein – the co-founder of the investment fund of Carlyle Group acquired one copy of 1297 with the seal of King Edward III at Sotheby’s. Prior to that, the owner was an American billionaire Ross Perot.
Gospel of St. Cuthbert – the earliest of survived intact medieval books. The exact date of the creation is difficult to determine. Put in a coffin of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne at the funeral (c. 634-687) book was found only 400 years later, when the relics of St. shifted into a new reliquary.
Meanwhile, the remains of St Cuthbert and the Gospel were imperishable. Given that Cuthbert was then one of the most venerated saints of England, this edition of the Gospel, too, was the object of worship. Noteworthy, the book was shown only to very respected pilgrims who fasted before the sight of it, carefully washed and dressed in white clothes.
The size of the manuscript – 10×13 cm, and it contains only the text of the Gospel of John, without thumbnails. The book bound in red leather with ornaments in Celtic style. After the Reformation, Henry VIII manuscript appeared in various private collections, while in the XVIII century, it became the property of the Earl of Lichfield. The last presented it to Jesuit priest Thomas Phillips. The British Library bought it from the Jesuit Order in 2011.
Massachusetts Psalm Book – the first printed book in the United States. It came out in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1700 edition copies. Psalter contains a more accurate translation from Hebrew than those collections of psalms that immigrants had brought with them from England. Although the translation of their imperfect and sometimes far from poetry, edition of the book was a major achievement – it appeared in just 20 years after the first English settlement in the United States was founded. Now preserved only 11 copies of the first edition of the book. One of them was acquired by the investment fund of Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein in 2013 at Sotheby’s.
Rothschild’s Book of Hours – 150-page prayer book, created around 1505, is recognized as a masterpiece of Renaissance art. It includes thumbnails of Flemish masters such as Horenbout Gerard, Gerard David, Alexander and Simon Bening. Book of Hours is so called because it contains a “clock” – prayers and hymns for daily church services, which are supposed to read at the appointed time. In the XIX century manuscript was owned by Baron Anselm von Rothschild and stored in the collection of the Austrian family until the first half of the XX century. In 1938, the Nazis confiscated it, but in 1998 returned to Austria to the Rothschilds family. Baroness Bettina Rothschild year later put it up for auction Christie’s, where it was sold at a cost almost three times higher than the estimate. Two recent books remain at incognito owners.
‘Birds of America’ by John James Audubon. Huge – 127 centimeters tall book, contains 435 hand-colored prints of engravings depicting birds. Drawings made a life-size by American naturalist John Audubon, who in 1820 set out to portray all the birds of North America. Six kinds of them by now extinct. The book printed in Edinburgh and London in the 20-30-ies of the XIX century. Its first edition (180-200 copies) are masterpieces of books and the greatest rarity. Now in the world there are 119 complete copies of them, and only 11 are in private collections. In 2010, London-based art dealer Michael Tollemah acquired a copy of the first edition of “Birds of America” at Sotheby’s in London.
“The Canterbury Tales” – considered the main work of the father of English poetry Geoffrey Chaucer, although it was never completed. Imbued with realism collection of poems and prose novels, written in the late XIV century Middle English, anticipated English Renaissance literature. Chaucer, known as one of the founders of the English national literature, the first to write essays not in Latin but in his native language. A book published in 1477 by English pioneer William Caxton. Only 12 copies of the first edition survived, and only one was in 1998 at Christie’s auction. It came to private collectors: acquired by a group of London merchants for $ 11.1 million. For the first time at auction, “The Canterbury Tales” – sold in 1776 for £ 6.
The Constitution of George Washington (1789). Edition, printed by order of George Washington in 1789, is part of the book of Acts of Congress of the United States and contains personal notes of president. There is a text of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, a bill to establish the Department of State, the Treasury and the War Department. According to experts, the book is in very good condition. After the president’s death in 1799 copy is at his residence for fifty years. Then it belonged to his nephew Lawrence Washington, who sold it at auction for $ 13. The second time the rarity was at public auction in 1976, when collector Richard Dietrich acquired it. In 2012, Women’s Association of Mount Vernon bought a copy of the Constitution, in addition to other things, preserved in the residence of Washington.
This copy of the first edition of William Shakespeare’s plays published in 1623 by John Heminges and Henry Condell who worked in Shakespeare Company. Title reads “Mr. William Shakespeare’s comedy, chronicles and tragedies. Printed with accurate and authentic texts. “The emphasis on authenticity made in an attempt to scam the works of Shakespeare, the rights to which were originally bought by the publisher Thomas Peviar. Companions of Shakespeare, who decided on their own to issue his plays, too, redeemed from different publishers rights to them. Besides, dealt with “pirated” version and recreated the work in the author’s version. The book in full size printed sheet that the printer designated in Latin «in folio». The “First Folio” included 36 of Shakespeare’s plays – almost all pieces except the “Pericles” and “Two noble kinsmen”. Folio, in particular, contains 998 pages of large format, and the text printed in two columns. For today have survived only 40 complete copies of the first edition of which in private hands are only two. The owners kept incognito.
2014 Ten Most Expensive Books