Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2021 Issue

AbeBooks Releases Its Top 10 List of Most Expensive Books for 2020

Arabia in Ptolemy's time.

AbeBooks, the website that offers hundreds of millions of primarily used and old books from thousands of booksellers around the world, has listed the Top 10 highest prices paid on their site in 2020. At least something good happened in this terrible year. It is kind of surprising to see how much money some people charge on their credit cards on the web. My bank would cut me off on the basis of my credit limit if I tried this, but not these collectors. Serious collectors are finding serious material on AbeBooks and are going for it.


This year's list contains a wide range of different types of books with a date range of over five centuries, almost the entire span of printing. Here are the Top 10 most expensive books purchased from AbeBooks in 2020.


10. Linda McCartney. Life in Photographs. Linda McCartney was a photographer and the first wife of Beatle Paul McCartney. She tragically died of breast cancer at the age of 56. Her husband and children collaborated to publish this tribute in 2011, 13 years after she died. $20,000.


9. The Dark Tower by Stephen King. This is the complete set of nine books published in 12 volumes by Donald M. Grant. Each volume is signed by King and the illustrator. $21,080.


8. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. An early edition of this book is very valuable, but this one was published in 1969, over a century after the first. What gives? The answer is this edition contains 13 plates of illustrations by Salvador Dali, one of 200 copies signed by him. $23,600.


6 tie. The Lost World by Michael Crichton. An unread as-new copy of the 1995 first edition signed by Steven Spielberg and ten actors from the 1997 film adaptation. $25,000.


6. tie. Goldfinger by Ian Fleming. Fleming's books have seen an enormous increase in their value over the past few years. This is a signed first edition of one his favorites and an enormously successful movie. $25,000.


5. David Bailey Art Edition. A book need not be old to be valuable. Published in 2019. A massive book of Bailey's photographs, complete with a tripod book stand and an extra print of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. One of 75 copies. $25,225.


4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. A first edition from 1843 and a perfect item for a holiday season list. $27,500.


3. Ptolemaic Map of Arabia. This copy of the map originated by the second century geographer/astronomer from Alexandria, Ptolemy, is a double-page woodcut taken from the 1482 Ulm atlas. $27,880.


2. Innocentia Victrix (Innocent Victorious). A book written by Jesuit missionaries in China in 1671, printed using Chinese woodblock printing. Contains imperial decrees printed in Chinese and Latin favorable to Christians in China. $41,800.


1. Ulysses by James Joyce. This is actually not the Shakespeare & Co. first edition of 1922. It is a Bodley Head 1936 edition, of which there were 1,000 copies, but this is #69 of 100 copies signed by Joyce. $46,310.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.

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