Books are a treasure. We are no strangers to this. But obviously some of us, these people, took the saying a little too literally. But, you can’t really blame them because these books are part of the world’s legacy – they have shaped knowledge for successive generations and, in some cases, changed the way the world would read a book.
1. The Bay Psalm Book
Congregationalists, emigrants from the Massachusetts Bay area, the book sold at a Sotheby’s auction last year in New York, for the exorbitant sum of $14,165,000. It was printed in 1640 and is one of 11 surviving copies worldwide.
2. Birds of America
Written by John James Audubon, this is a first edition of a collection of drawings by Audubon who used wire to support birds in their natural habitats and draw them in their original size. The drawings were to be accommodated within the book’s double-elephant folio-size pages. Sold at auction in 2010, at Sotheby’s London, as part of the sale of Magnificent Books, Manuscripts and Drawings from the Collection of Frederick, Second Lord Hesketh, the book sold for £7,321,250.
3. The Gutenberg Bible
One of the first books to be printed by Johann Gutenberg in 1455, in Mainz, the Gutenberg Bible was the birth of printing presses in the world. It changed the way books were viewed around the world. Only 48 copies of the book survive today, of which only 31 are in perfect condition. A single page of the book is worth around £50,000, and the whole book is worth around tens of millions of pounds!
4. Comedies, stories and tragedies
The Pieces, also known as The First Folio, are a collection of early works by William Shakespeare. It was printed as early as 1623 but was published seven years after the Bard’s death. The collection has also stood the test of time in classical literature, being one of the most sought after and acclaimed works of literature by the famous Shakespeare. In 2001 it was set at a record price of $6 million and to date is worth between £4-5 million.
5. Don Quixote
One of the most acclaimed pieces of classic English literature, Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes, has been adapted countless times, across different generations. It was originally published in 1605 and is a satire on the tumultuous romances of the period in which it was written. One of the first concepts about chivalry and romance ever written, it became a legend in its own right and the key characters, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have been immortalized throughout time. The last complete copy of the book was sold at auction in 1989 for $1.5 million.
6. Geography Cosmographia
The renowned Greek writer and mathematician who inspired Ptolemy’s theorem, Claudius Ptolemeaus, wrote Geographia Cosmographia, also better known as Geography – which served as the basis for cartography, maps and atlases around the world. While Ptolemy was accused of errors in the measurements of maps and places, his work was the basis for the proof that the Earth was indeed spherical and became the guiding principle for future cartographers to provide accurate measurements for atlases of the world. A copy of this particular version, the Bologna edition sold for over £2 million in 2006.
7. The Canterbury Tales
The first edition of the work, published in the 15th century, sold at auction in 1998 for £4.6 million. The book, written by Geoffrey Chaucer – the man considered the father of English literature – is one of the most sought-after classic works in the world. The Canterbury Tales have become a must-have collectible on every literary connoisseur’s list and must-read for every student of literature around the world. Only a dozen copies of the 1477 editions survive today, all printed by William Caxton. The value of the books is about seven times higher than in 1998.
8. The Tales of Beedle The Bard
It’s a welcome surprise for all Harry Potter-slash-JK Rowling fans around the world. The unique version of The Tales of Beedle The Bard, by JK Rowling, is bound in brown leather and decorated with moonstones and silver, and has been illustrated by the author, herself. There are only seven such examples in the world, one of which was sold at auction to an Amazon retailer for £1.95million. The remaining six copies were presented to members closely associated with the Harry Potter franchise, whose authorship, we imagine, is obviously.
9. The Leicester Codex
A collection of scientific writings by the famous legendary artist Leonardo Da Vinci, it is considered one of the artist’s 30 most famous scientific works. It was originally named after Thomas Coke, later named Earl of Leicester, who purchased the codex in 1719. In 1994, Bill Gates purchased the complete works for over $30 million.