Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2016 Issue

AbeBooks Most Expensive Books of 2015 Includes Their Most Expensive Book Ever

Plates from the Natural History of Birds.

We've all entered our credit card number into an online order form and then, with some trepidation, clicked "submit." How many of us have done so when the amount was $191,000? Someone placed such an order on AbeBooks this past year, and the book tops the list of AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales in 2015. It was almost three times the price of the previous most expensive item sold on the site, a modest $65,000. There are many people searching Abe for dollar books, but there's another universe out there of serious collectors, the ones for whom AbeBooks offers the option of searching by highest price instead of lowest. Here is the top 10 list of Abebooks' most expensive items sold in 2015.

 

10. The Story of Project Mercury, America's Man-in-Space Program, by Martin Caidin, published in 1960. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into space. By the following year, an embarrassed American government responded with the initiation of project Mercury. The space race was on. The Soviets would beat the Americans to the first person in space as well in the year after this book was published, but by 1963, when Project Mercury ended, the U.S. had lifted six people into space. This copy was signed by all seven of the first American astronauts, including Alan Shepard, first American in space, and John Glenn, first American to orbit the earth. $18,500.

 

9. The Holy Bible, published by Mark Baskett in London in 1767. This book certainly needs no introduction. However, the edition needs some. Baskett was the official printer for the King, a position passed down from his ancestors. $18,928.

 

8. Lord of the Rings (trilogy), by J. R. R. Tolkien, published 1953-1955. Three volumes, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, all first editions, signed by the author. $19,492.

 

7. Scenes of Clerical Life, by George Eliot, a first edition published in January 1858. There were 1,050 copies printed in the first edition, but this is one of just eight that were presentation copies from the author. This was Eliot's first book of fiction, published before anyone new that "George Eliot" was a pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans. $20,000.

 

6. The Grounde of Artes, by Robert Record, published in 1579. When spelling like that is used, you know the book is very old. It was first published in 1543. At least 45 editions had been published by 1699. This was a popular book. It was one of the earliest textbooks in mathematics. Record is recognized as the creator of the equals sign. $22,083.

 

5. Plantes de la France, by Jaume Saint-Hilaire, published via subscription from 1819-1822. This is a first edition of a spectacular 10-volume botanical set including a thousand illustrations printed in color. $22,549.

 

4. Sertum Orchidaceum: A Wreath of the Most Beautiful Orchidaceous Flowers, by John Lindley, published in 1838. This is a particularly attractive orchid book containing 49 hand-colored lithographed plates. $24,643.

 

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl, published in 1964. This one ties for second best known book on this list with Tolkien. Ten thousand copies of this first edition were printed, selling out in a few weeks, but very few of them are inscribed by Dahl as was this copy. The bookseller was Raptis Rare Books of Vermont. $25,000.

 

2. Pangeometria, by Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevskii, published in Russian in 1856. If you want to look up this 19th century Russian mathematician, be prepared to try a number of other spellings, including Lobachevski, Lobachevsky, and Lobatschewsky. You will need to be an expert in geometry to understand this book in any language. $34,245.

 

1. Storia naturale degli uccelli... by Saverio Manetti, published in Florence in 1765. The title translates to "Natural history of birds..." This book, commissioned by the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, contains 600 hand-colored plates of birds. This five-volume folio set may have been the most spectacular book on birds published up to that time, anticipating the great ornithology books of Audubon, Gould and others in the 19th century. Antiquarian plate books of birds are very popular today, with individual plates from Audubon regularly selling for enormous amounts. $191,000.

 

AbeBooks' list of their top 20 sales, plus some very interesting others, can be found at the following link: www.abebooks.com/rare-books/most-expensive-sales/year-2015.shtml

Rare Book Monthly

  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Closing Time, Advance Readers Copy of Uncorrected Proof with a letter from Heller on his personal stationary
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Gates, Bill, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, N Y: Knopf, 2021; first edition, with a handwritten note from Bill Gates
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Catch-22, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, first edition, first printing, first issue dust jacket, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Something Happened, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, first edition, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, London: John Murray, 1818, in four volumes
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000

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