With the advent of Android technology and the ability to buy books digitally, the notion of collecting books is becoming a thing of the past. In a similar way to how MP3s have taken over from vinyl, there will no doubt be some debate within the public consensus of how a digital product doesn’t share the same level of ownership as its physical counterpart. Forget the convenience of digital for a moment, and consider the bespoke shape, size, design, artwork, materials used and even personalised etchings made by the authors themselves. While this isn’t important to every reader, these combined factors give books their own individuality and personality, as well as provide wholehearted value. Here is a rundown of the rarest, most expensive and in-demand books out there.
Dom Perignon – a cookbook
Decanter, a UK-based company, is marketing the most expensive cookbook in the world. If the title isn’t enough of a giveaway, each of the recipes is meant to be accompanied by a bottle of Dom Perignon. It includes recipes by some of the top chefs in the United Kingdom and is bound in green Galuchat leather made from an extremely rare hide of a Japanese ray. This limited edition cookbook has only 30 volumes in print.
The Northumberland Bestiary
The Northumberland Bestiary was one of the most important traditions to emerge from medieval England. The book comprised of over a hundred animals, both real (lions and elephants) and imaginary (six-headed hydras), and was intended to present readers with moral lessons, based on the Christian values of that era. It served as the most famous picture book of its time. This book holds the record for the most expensive English manuscript.
Charles Dickens Oliver Twist
Charles Dickens wrote numerous classics, including A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. There is a rare version of Oliver Twist, however, that contains an inscription by Dickens himself to William Ainsworth; a friend and novelist. The book was in the Kenyan Starling Library for years and was then sold for $229,000 at Christie’s in New York.
An issue of Spider-Man is the rarest comic book on earth. When it came out in March 1963, it sold for just 12 cents. However, production was soon cancelled. Whether this is to do with Martin Goodman’s initial dislike towards the Spiderman franchise is unclear. Once Spiderman became a hit with the public, though, production of the series continued. Now the original comic series is worth $40k! Next to the likes of Action Comics #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15 this isn’t the highest price ever for a comic book, but it’s extremely rare to find a copy in such pristine condition.
This atlas was printed in 1477 and only two copies are said to exist today. It is based on the work of the second-century Greek mathematician, geographer and astronomer, Ptolemy. Each map had been etched into a printing plate by hand, precisely copying the original sources which were often over a thousand years old.
1st edition copy Declaration Independence
Several hundred of these were printed in Philadelphia for distribution throughout the Colonies after the original handwritten document was signed by the Founding Fathers. Though the copies differ because they do not bear signatures, the last one to come to market was sold to television mogul Norman Lear for $8 million.
William Shakespeare’s First Folio
This first edition collection of the bard’s plays was the most expensive book sold at Sotheby’s auction house in 2006 for £2.5 million. In 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, this book was published and was dedicated to the “incomparable pair of brethren”, otherwise known as the two brothers, William Herbert (the 3rd Earl of Pembroke) and the Earl of Montgomery, Philip Herbert (later, the 4th Earl of Pembroke). It contains a dozen plays that have never been reprinted, as well as many that are considered classics today.
James Audubon’s Birds of America
The most expensive printed book on record is James Audobon’s “Birds of America,” which was published between 1827 and 1838, and sold for $8.8 million in 2000. A second copy was sold in 2010 for an even more staggering $11 million. Audubon is a historic illustrator who pioneered much early wildlife research. Each original copy of this book measures at 3 feet by 2 feet, due to Audubon’s desire to paint the birds in life-size.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codex Leicester
Da Vinci’s notebook of scientific research and theories, which comprises of original drawings, notes and sketches, was sold to Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 1994. In the Codex Leicester, Da Vinci writes and draws his thoughts on such topics as the movement of water and the luminosity of the moon. Gates didn’t keep the manuscript to himself though; he had the contents scanned and distributed as a screen saver with Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95. Da Vinci produced thirty scientific journals in total, however, the Codex is considered to be the most revered.
The Gutenberg Bible
Quite possibly the rarest book in the world, Johannes Gutenberg’s forty-two inch-long, 1,272-page spanning edition of the Bible was the first book ever printed back in 1456, as well as the first major book to be printed with moveable type. Several hundred copies were originally printed and sold out almost immediately at the time. Out of the twenty-one known copies, finding a complete first edition today would net you $25-$35 million. In today’s market, single pages alone go for $25,000 each, and several years ago just 1 volume in this 2 volume set sold for $5.5 million. Aside from being the first major book to be printed, Gutenberg’s edition of the Bible is widely regarded for its overall aesthetic quality. [smartads]