Tags: Psalms | book | auction | Boston

America's First Book Sells for Record $14 Million

Image: America's First Book Sells for Record $14 Million

Wednesday, 27 Nov 2013 07:52 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Just in time for Thanksgiving, Sotheby's auctioned the Bay Psalm Book on Tuesday for $14.2 million, making it the most expensive printed work ever sold.

The diminutive book, dating back to 1640, is the first book printed in the New World.

Puritan leaders published it in Cambridge, Mass., as an English translation of the Hebrew original. Of the 1,700 copies first printed, 11 are known to remain in existence, according to the BBC.

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The book was sold in New York by Boston's Old South Church, famous for hosting meetings to plan the Boston Tea Party. The church owns another copy which it does not plan to sell.

The Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister of the church, called the book "spectacular" and "arguably one of the most important books in this nation's history."

The buyer is philanthropist David Rubenstein, the billionaire founder of the Carlyle Group, who helped pay for the earthquake repairs to the Washington Monument. He intends to loan the Psalm Book to libraries across the United States.

According to the BBC, the Psalm Book's type inking is jagged and there are any number of printing mistakes. Its publisher and author, Isaiah Thomas, acknowledged 200 years ago that it "abounds with typographical errors" and "does not exhibit the appearance of good workmanship. The compositor must have been wholly unacquainted with punctuation."

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