The World’s Most Expensive Literature
“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” – G.K. Chesterton.
The true value of great literature lies in what it offers to the reader, whether it is enlightenment, escapism or instruction. When a book achieves such status in society that it is culturally or historically priceless, it’s then that collectors start to think of it more as an antique and a potential investment.
All the books in our list below share certain traits, their age, their scarcity and their transformative power, religious, political, cultural and scientific. As people around the globe celebrate World Book Day we take a look at the world’s most expensive literature.
5. The Rothschild Prayerbook – $13.6million
An illustrated book of prayers and psalms from the 16th Century which was returned to its original owners, the Rothschild family, in 1999 after being held by the Austrian government since World War II. It was promptly auctioned for a record sum of $13.4million. It was sold once again in February 2014 to a private bidder at Christie’s in New York.
4. Bay Psalm Book – $14.2million
The first book ever published in the United States, an English translation of Hebrew psalms, was sold to U.S philanthropist David Rubenstein. It is one of only 11 copies of the original text that still exist and previously belonged to the Old South Church in Boston.
3. St Cuthbert Gospel – $14.3million
The oldest surviving European produced book was purchased outright by The British Library in London for £9million in 2012 after being on loan to the institution since 1979. The book contains a Latin translation of the Gospel of St John. It is named for Saint Cuthbert a 7th Century Anglo-Saxon monk.
2. Magna Carta – $21.3million
Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in modern history, creating as it did, for the first time, a charter that protected and guaranteed the liberties of the general public. It formed the basis for constitutional law in England as well as the Declaration of Independence and U.S. constitution. Its purchase in 2007 was to ensure that it remained in the U.S. National Archive, it being the only copy in the country.
1. The Codex Leicester – $30.8million
A collection of scientific writings handwritten by Leonardo Da Vinci, it was originally owned by the Earl of Leicester before being purchased by industrialist Armand Hammer. Its current owner, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, bought the document for nearly 31 million dollars in 1994, it has since been displayed in cities around the world as well as being digitally converted.
(You can read more about the valuation of books and other antiques on borro’s valuation pages.)