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The rock star of rare books goes on tour


The book that could become the world’s most expensive book is going on tour. Rather like a rock star except the gigs are in libraries rather than stadiums. However, the Bay Psalm Book actually does have celebrity status within the rare book world and Sotheby’s will auction a very rare copy on November 26.

In the meantime, the copy in question is touring America – a sort of final countdown to the big auction night in New York. The first stop is Chicago’s Newberry Library on September 11. It goes on to St Louis and then Cleveland.

The Bay Psalm Book was printed in 1640. Experts at Sotheby’s estimate the sale price will be between $15 million and $30 million.

It was the first book printed in what became the United States so it has huge cultural significance. The last Bay Psalm Book to be sold was bought at a Sotheby’s auction in 1947 for $151,000 by Yale University. Only 11 copies survive and this particular copy is in remarkable shape considering its age. The book itself is a psalter, a book of psalms that were translated into English from Hebrew in the early years of the American colony.

The most expensive book ever sold was Codex Leicester by Leonardo da Vinci, bought for $30.8 million in 1994 by Bill Gates.  However, Codex Leicester is a handwritten journal featuring da Vinci’s thoughts and theories on various subjects, while the Bay Psalm Book is a printed book (just one worth at least $15 million).

If you have a chance, then you should see this piece of American history. The tour dates are:

Wednesday, 11 September – 10am to 4pm at Newberry Library, Chicago, 60 W Walton St

Friday, 13 September – 10am to 4pm at St. Louis Mercantile Library, University of Missouri, St. Louis, 1 University Blvd.

Wednesday, 18 September – 10am to 4pm at Cleveland Public Library, 325 Superior Ave. E.

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Richard Davies

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