Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2010 Issue

AbeBooks Announces Their Top 10 for 2009

Piranesi1

The top priced book sold on AbeBooks in 2009, by Giovanni Battista Piranesi.


By Michael Stillman

In 2009, AbeBooks regularly had around 110 million books posted for sale on their website. We don't have the figures, but estimate something in the 8 to 10 million area were sold, mostly used books, intended for reading, reference or school. The average price was probably in the $20 range. This story is not about the average Abe book. It's about the very best. Occasionally, the site is host to the sale of the uncommon, rare or antiquarian book. This is where Abe intersects with the world of highly collectible books. As 2009 came to a close, AbeBooks went back to its sales for the year and compiled a list of the Top 10 prices paid during the previous 12 months. Actually, there are 12 books in the Top 10, though the numbers only go through 9. That riddle is solved with the word "tie." Here, then, are the most expensive books sold via the AbeBooks website for the year 2009.

9. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger' s tale of youth, a first edition published in 1951. $11,000.

9. Tender is the Night, another first edition of an American classic by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1934. $11,000.

9. The Origin of Species, an 1860 first American edition of the book that introduced Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. $11,000.

9. The Four Gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ, an item perhaps more appealing to those who do not care for the #9 above. This is a 1931 Golden Cockerel Press edition by Eric Gill. $9,000.

8. Imre: A Memorandum by Xavier Mayne (pseudonym for Edward Irenaeus Prime-Stevenson). Inscribed by "X.M." This 1906 novel is considered the first to portray a homosexual relationship in a positive light. $12,000.

5. Works of Charles Dickens, a 22-volume Chapman and Hall set, along with a note of presentation dated 1859 from Dickens. $12,500.

5. Libellus ysagogicus Abdilasi Id est servi gloriosi dei: qui dicitur Alchabitius ad magisterium iuditiorum astrorum, a 1485 German edition of the works of 10th century Arabian astrologer Alchabitius. $12,500.

5. Dreams of My Father, published more than half a millennium after the previous item (1996). This is a first edition of the book by now President Barack Obama. $12,500.

4. YA-WAE PA-HU-CAE E-CAE AE-TA-NAE E-TU-HCE WA-U-N A-H A. Original Hymns in the Ioway Language by William Hamilton & Samuel M. Irvin. This is an 1843 hymnal in the Ioway dialect published by the Sac Mission Press. $13,500.

3. The Dark Tower Series, first editions of all seven volumes in the series in a signed slipcase from author Stephen King. $14,000.

2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, first London editions (1866, 1872) of the classics written by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by John Tenniel. $14,377.

1. Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de'Romaniand Osservazioni sopra la Lettre de M. Mariette by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. This is a book about ancient Roman structures, containing Piranesi's etchings of them. $17,000.

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