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AbeBooks is the #1 place to find rare books, collectible books and out-of-print books. We love the selection and variety here, and every year, our top sales for the year reflect some of the unique items that catch collectors' eyes and wallets. Many of the titles that fetch top dollar are antiquarian books, with titles in Latin or Italian, biblical or other religious texts, or objects of great beauty as much as literature. Others are classics whose timelessness sees their value rise year after year.

From explorers to flowers, architecture to artists, have a peek at the books that tempted the big spenders in 2009.

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Overall Sales of 2009

Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de'Romaniand Osservazioni sopra la Lettre de M. Mariette 1. Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de'Romaniand Osservazioni sopra la Lettre de M. Mariette by Giovanni Battista Piranesi - $17,000
Piranesi (1720-1778) is famous for his etchings of ancient Roman ruins and prisons.  This work (published in 1765) translates to Roman Antiquities of the Time of the First Republic and the First Emperors and contains etchings of the structures from this period.

2. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Through The Looking Glass and And What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll - $14,377
First London editions in two volumes (1866 & 1872).  Illustrated by John Tenniel and bound in red morocco with a slipcase.

3. The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King - $14,000
First edition copies of all seven volumes of the series, signed and numbered in a slipcase. 

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 - $13,500
A rare item of Americana relating to Native Americans printed in 1843.  This book was one of the first two titles issued from the Sac Mission Press, limited to 125 copies.  It is a lengthy hymn book, with the text written in the dialect used by this tribe from Iowa.

5= Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama - $12,500
The 44th president’s first book, this is a first edition from 1996 signed by Obama.

5= Libellus ysagogicus Abdilasi Id est servi gloriosi dei: qui dicitur Alchabitius ad magisterium iuditiorum astrorum - by Alchabitius - $12,500
Early German publisher Erhard Ratdolt produced this volume in 1485 containing the work of Alchabitius, the 10th century Arabian astrologer.
Works of Dickens, Chapman and Hall

5= Works of Charles Dickens and Signed Letter - $12,500
A complete set, 22 volumes, of Dickens’ works published by Chapman and Hall.  The set included a note from Dickens on his Tavistock House note paper dated Nov. 10, 1859 – “To Peter Cunningham. This set of my library edition, in remembrance of an old engagement between us. Charles Dickens."

8. Imre: A Memorandum by Xavier Mayne - $12,000
One of the first openly gay love stories in America, first edition published 1906.  Written by Edward Irenaeus Prime-Stevenson under a pseudonym the book is one of the most important in LGBT literature because it is considered the first novel where homosexuals are portrayed in a positive light.  This copy was one of 500 limited first editions, inscribed by Stevenson’s alter-ego "From X.M --/ Florence -- March / 1922." 

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald9= The Origin of Species - by Charles Darwin - $11,000
First American printing, published in 1860, of the book which contained the basis of Darwin's theory of Evolution. Learn more about the evolution of this book.

9= The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - $11,000
First edition, first printing, from 1951.  A fine copy of the true first printing.

9= Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald - $11,000
First edition of this American classic published by Charles Scribner in 1934. 

9= The Four Gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ by Eric Gill - $11,000  
Printed and published at the Golden Cockerel Press in 1931. Limited to 500 numbered copies with 64 wood-engraved initial letters and illustrations by Gill.


AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Children’s & Young Adult Books

1. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Through The Looking Glass and And What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll - $14,377Alice in Wonderland
First London editions in two volumes (1866 & 1872).  Illustrated by John Tenniel and bound in red morocco with a slipcase.

2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - $9,500
First edition copy from 1866 published by D. Appleton and Co.

3. A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind In the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle - $7,500
The first British editions of the first three books in L’Engle’s Time Quartet sci-fi/fantasy series, including her Newbery Award winning novel, A Wrinkle in Time.  The first two in the series are inscribed and the third flatsigned. 

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Art Books

1. Cinquante Dessins by Henri Matisse - $7,750       
First edition published 1920, limited to 1,000 copies and signed with an original etching by Matisse of a woman’s face, entitled “Mlle. M. M.”

2. Early Italian Engraving by Arthur Hind - $7,500
Published in 1938, this collection (two parts in seven volumes) was limited to 375 copies (part I) and 275 (part II).  Volume’s one and five are signed by author.

3. Album Pintoresco Isla de Cuba by Frédéric Miahle - $6,752
First edition printed in Havana in 1848.  Illustrated with 30 lithographs from Miahle, the book depicts daily life in Cuba and its capital in the mid-19th century. 

Sumon by Helmut NewtonAbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Photography Books

1. Sumo by Helmut Newton - $10,867
Limited edition of 10,000 and this copy is signed by the German-born fashion photographer. This massive photography book measures 20 x 28 inches, and is accompanied by an embossed stand, designed by Philippe Starck.

2. Peter Beard: Art Edition - $5,495
Another massive book. Limited edition elephant folio photobook from Tashen published in 2006.  Each of the 2,250 copies was signed by Beard.

3. Kitaru Beki Kotoba no Tame ni by Takuma Nakahira - $3,900
First edition published by Fudo-sha in 1970, a complete copy of an iconic title featuring the Provoke Era (a period of social upheaval after World War II) by one of Japan’s most important photographers

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Poetry Books

1. Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems by John Keats - $8,500
First edition of Keats’ third and final book published in 1820. 

2.  Sonnets et Eaux Fortes by Various - $8,248
A collection of sonnets and etchings published in 1869, 42 original etchings by Manet, Corot, Daubigny, Jean François Millet, Jongkind, Bracquemond, Victor Hugo and others. From a limited edition of 350 copies.

3. Oeuvres by Pierre de Ronsard - $7,435
The complete first volume of the first edition of Ronsard's poetry; bound with an incomplete copy of the second volume and the preliminary matter of the third volume. Ronsard (1524-1585) was known as the Prince of Poets in his native France. Published in Paris in 1560. 

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Science Fiction & Fantasy Books

1. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein - $9,730
Written in 1966 and set in 2075 where a lunar colony revolts against earth.  This copy is a first edition (sixth printing) signed by both the author and his wife, Virginia.

2. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov - $9,042
Complete set of first editions. Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation published by Gnome Press in 1951, ′52, and ′53 respectively. The second volume is inscribed by Asimov to one of his publishers.

3. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick - $6,500
First edition of this iconic science fiction novel used as the basis for Ridley Scott's Blade Runner movie. Published by Doubleday in 1968.

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Religious & Theology Books

1. The Four Gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ by Eric Gill - $11,000  
Printed and published at the Golden Cockerel Press in 1931. Limited to 500 numbered copies with 64 wood-engraved initial letters and illustrations by Gill.

2. Wonders of the Invisible World by Cotton Mather - $9,500
This is the second edition printed in London in 1693, this copy also contains a fine engraved bookplate of Samuel Mather (1851-1931), on the front marbled paste-down endpaper as well as a handwritten slip by Thomas J. Holmes, that compares it with the first London edition, giving some omissions, and differences in spelling and punctuation.

3. Liber Psalmorum Hebraice By Benjamin Kennicott - $8,250
Printed in 1809 this first edition copy of the first American Hebrew Psalter is written in Hebrew and Latin, the psalms appearing in Hebrew on each page, with the Latin commentary and notes below.

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Science Books

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin1. Libellus ysagogicus Abdilasi Id est servi gloriosi dei: qui dicitur Alchabitius ad magisterium iuditiorum astrorum - by Alchabitius - $12,500
Early German publisher Erhard Ratdolt produced this volume in 1485 containing the work of Alchabitius, the 10th century Arabian astrologer.

2. On The Origin of Species - by Charles Darwin - $11,000
First American printing, published in 1860, of the book which contained the basis of Darwin's theory of Evolution.

3. Philosophia Magnetica by Niccolo Cabeo - $8,880
First edition published in 1629 describes Cabeo′s work with the Earth′s magnetism and electrical repulsion

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Ephemera

1. Photographic portrait of Frédéric Chopin - $6,078
An original print of the only known surviving photograph of the famous composer dating from 1849. This print seems to have been printed at the Goupil & Cie studio, around 1895.

2. The Store by Claes Oldenburg - $5,500
A poster published for Oldenburg′s one-man exhibition: The Store at 107 East Second Street in New York from December 1, 1961 - January 31, 1962. Based on the drawing: The Store, Study for a Poster. Oldenburg is best known for his public art installations including "Free Stamp" in Cleveland, "Dropped Cone" in Cologne, and "The Bottle of Notes" in Middlesbrough.

3. Original pen, ink, and water-color used for the dust wrapper of The Fairy Tales of Perrault by Harry Clarke - $4,500
Clarke’s set of pen, ink and water-color used to create the intricate dust cover for The Fairy Tales of Perrault.

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Bird Books

1. Ootheca Wolleyana: An Illustrated Catalogue of the Collection of Birds' Eggs, begun by the late John Wolley, Jun., M.A., F.Z.S., and continued with additions, by the editor, Alfred Newton - $5,580
Published in 1907, this was a first edition copy of this ornithology book.

2. Game Birds and Wild-Fowl of Great Britain and Ireland by Archibald Thornburn - $1,830
First edition, deluxe limited issue of 155 copies containing 30 plates in color, showing 58 species.

3. A History of British Birds by F.O. Morris - $1,750
Published in 1857, this six-volume set details the various species of birds in Britain, including 358 full color plates.

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Flower Books

1. Indigenous Flowers of the Hawaiian Islands by Isabell Sinclair - $5,500
First edition published in 1885, and inscribed by the Sinclair.  The Book includes 44 beautiful colour plates dedicated to the flora of the Hawaiian Islands.  In the book Sinclair wars of coming threats to the native flora from non native species brought on by fires, animals, and human intervention.

2. Wildflowers of Great Britain by George W. Johnson and Robert Hogg - $3,245
Compiled in 11 volumes containing 924 colored plates and was originally published in 1863.  Johnson was a master gardener who penned numerous works on the subject, and founded the Journal of Horticulture, which published this work.

3. Flore Des Dames et Demoiselles - $3,000
A romantic look at gardens, each volume is prefaced with a short discussion of a related topic, such as methods in foreign countries, arrangement of flower beds, and orangeries.  Printed in six volumes but paginated continuously.

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Exploration Books

1= Beskrivelse over Eylandet St. Croix I America I Vest-Indien - by Reimert Haagensen - $4,500
Published in 1758 in Copenhagen this first edition is an early, and important, description of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands based on the author′s own observations; discussing economic conditions, slavery, social life, and local customs.

1= The Navigator by Cramer Zadok - $4,500
Seventh edition, published in 1811. It is fully titled;  The Navigator: Containing Directions for Navigating the Monongahela, Allegheny, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers; with an Ample Account of These Much Admired Waters, from the Head of the Former to the Mouth of the Latter, and a Concise Description of Their Towns, Villages, Harbours, Settlements, &c. With Accurate Maps of the Ohio and Mississippi, to which is Added, an Appendix, Containing an Account of Louisiana, and of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers, as Discovered by the Voyage under Captains Lewis and Clarke.

1= Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt 1802-1806 by Viscount George Annesley Valentia - $4,500
First edition published in 1809 in three volumes, it contains a dedication letter to Richard Maquis Wellesley, who was the Governor General of the British possessions and Captain General of the British forces in the East Indies.

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Architecture Books

1. Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de'Romaniand Osservazioni sopra la Lettre de M. Mariette by Giovanni Battista Piranesi - $17,000
Piranesi (1720-1778) is famous for his etchings of ancient Roman ruins and prisons.  This work (published in 1765) translates to Roman Antiquities of the Time of the First Republic and the First Emperors and contains etchings of the structures from this period.

2. Espana Artistica y Monumental, Vistas y Discripcion De Los Sitios y Monumentos Mas Notables De Espana by Genaro Perez Vila Amil - $7,500
Volume I and III of this set which depict the artistic and monumental sites of Spain.  Written by Genaro Perez Villa Amil (1807-1854) who was one of the finest landscape artists in Spanish Romanticism. First editions published in 1842 and 1850 respectively.

3. Frank Lloyd Wright 12 Vol. Monograph by Frank Lloyd Wright et al - $5,850
First edition published in 1984. The complete 12-volume set of the astounding monograph of the Master of American architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright. Volumes 1-8 are monographs of his work; volumes 9-11 are ‘Preliminary Studies’; volume 12 is called Frank Lloyd Wright in His Renderings. The most exhaustive study of Lloyd Wright undertaken. 

Bram Stoker's Dracula

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Vampire Books

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker - $3,000
First edition, early issue, published in 1899 and bound in original red-lettered yellow cloth.

2. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - $2,000
First edition, first printing, signed by the bestselling author

3. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King - $1,450
Limited edition copy signed by King and illustrator Jerry Uelsmann.  This copy was number 171 of 405.