America doesn’t have a long history compared to the rest of the world. You can walk into pubs that are as old as the United States in England, but that’s not to discount just how old America is. In 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, printers turned out 1700 copies of a book called the Bay Psalm Book. This is noteworthy because it was the first book printed in America, and it is further noteworthy because there are only 11 of these books still in existence. One of these books went up for auction this week, and it sold for a surprisingly high amount. A copy of the Bay Psalm Book from 1649 sold for $14.2 million dollars. The book was auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York.
That’s the most expensive book ever auctioned in the United States, dethroning a $10 million dollar copy of John Jay Audubon’s Birds of America sold last year. It was sold by its previous owners, the Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts, to fund ministry programs and to pay for building renovations and repairs; amazingly, the same church owned two of the eleven remaining copies of the Bay Psalm Book, so if they need more money later, they know where to get it. This was the first copy of the book to sell at auction since 1947, when it sold for $151,000. It is one of the rarest books in the world.
“We are thrilled that this book, which is so important to our history and culture, is destined to be widely seen by Americans who can appreciate its singular significance,” said David Redden, chairman of Sotheby’s books department. “We are of course also thrilled to have achieved a new world auction record price for any printed book, which affirms that books remain a vital part of our culture.”
The book’s new owner, David Rubinstein, co-founder and co-CEO of Carlyle Group LP, has decided to send the book on a tour of libraries around the country before putting the book on loan long-term to one of those libraries.
Tags: sotheby’s, bay psalm book, first book printed in america, rare books, book auctions, first book printed in america sells for .2 million, bay psalm book sells for .2 million, David Rubenstein, Carlyle Group LP, david redden, old south church