AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales
At the start of each month AbeBooks publishes its top 10 most expensive sales from the previous one. These lists provide a remarkable insight in the world of rare book collecting and reveal what the big spenders are adding to their libraries. First editions of books that made literary history, books signed by the world’s most influential figures, stunning art books illustrated by the greatest artists, ultra-rare Bibles and Korans, collections, trilogies, fine press copies, limited editions, antiquarian books in French, Latin and Arabic, and much, much more – they all appear on these fascinating lists.
The Most Expensive Sales
October 2013October's big ticket sales include a book from one of the pioneers of African-American literature. Phillis Wheatley defied slavery to become a published poet. Her memoir and poems sold for $8,250. Poetry was quite popular this month, with Robert Frost and John Milton also in the top 10.
Topping September's list is a 1954 first edition of William Golding's Lord of Flies. It's signed and includes a hand-written envelope from Golding with a postcard inside, and two hand-written letters. Collector favorites John Steinbeck and Ian Fleming also made the list.
August 2013Ernest Hemingway makes yet another appearance on an expensive sales list. A photograph of Hemingway, signed by the author in 1937, the year in which he left for the Spanish Civil War, sold for $8,250. It's an eye-catching image of the author sitting on a boat, barefooted and relaxed.
First edition copies of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children often sell for up to $4,000 when signed by Rushdie, but even that figure pales in comparison to July's chart-topping sale of the extraordinarily rare, uncorrected proof of the first UK edition.
June 2013June's most interesting expensive sales on the top ten list include not only a second folio 'Leda' edition of the Bishops' Bible, but a 1731 German 'Kupfer-Bibel', providing scientific commentary on the Bible, complete with various plates.
John Claude White was part of a military expedition to Tibet in 1904 and his pioneering photographs detailed the culture and landscapes of the Himalayas. Last month, a book of his photography sold for £18,589 on AbeBooks and topped our most expensive sales.
Emily Dickinson was unheralded during her lifetime but today, 127 years after her death, the poet's work is treasured by collectors. Three volumes of her poetry were sold last month on AbeBooks and became our most expensive sale of the year so far.
March's list had some absolute gems, including a guest book from an Austrian stately home which contains the signatures of an amazing array of people, including Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Peter Sellers and Yves Saint Laurent.
February 2013February's top sale was a rare set of the only 18th-century French translation of Shakespeare. Other interesting items included a book about the discovery of DNA, and one about handmade Japanese paper, including specimens from the eighth and ninth centuries.
January 2013A novel inspired by the mighty sand dunes found in Oregon lead January's most expensive sales. Our top 10 also includes a letter from Franz Liszt - the 19th century Hungarian composer and pianist, and much more goodies to round out the list.
December 2012December's top sale was a stunning book of illustrations by Henri Matisse with a titillating myth behind it. Other noteworthy items included Rudyard Kipling, Salvador Dali, the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley and more.
November 2012The most famous flowers of Pierre-Joseph Redouté appear on our list of November's most expensive sales. He is joined by English illustrator William Henry Pyne and many more.
A rare limited edition of Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel sold during October. The book sparked protests from Muslims as blasphemous to Islam. AbeBooks also sold a first edition of Ian Fleming’s second book, Live and Let Die. The sale coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film.
September 2012In September AbeBooks sold three historic bibles with a combined age of 1,296 years and an impressive combined value. The most expensive sale was a Latin bible from 1491, s a so-called ‘Poor Man’s bible’ printed by Johannes Froben. The nickname comes from its smaller size.
August 2012The Old Man and the Sea is still in demand 60 years after its original publication and took our third place in August. The top two slots were filled by a a 15th-century French medieval mystery play and a 13th-century Latin bible.
July 2012A rare first edition of Mexico’s first national atlas was July's most expensive sale. The second spot went to a gorgeous limited edition 2003 Spanish reprint of Don Quixote illustrated by Salvador Dali.
June 2012While a signed limited edition of An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde topped the list for June, you will also find Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin and Cormac McCarthy on our list of most expensive sales.
May 2012May was a fantastic month for rare book sales, precipitated in part by the sad death of Maurice Sendak, whose Where the Wild Things Are took second place, after a rare celestial atlas from 1603.
April 2012A first edition of Franz Kafka's Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis) was April's most expensive sale. Our list also included a pioneering photography book with an introduction by Jack Kerouac, and a book signed by Truman Capote.
March 2012A rare 17th-century mushroom book was our most expensive sale in March. The list also included a first American edition of Moby-Dick, some famous French poetry, a lottery ticket signed by an American president, and more.
February 2012Our top sale was a $14,500 copy of The Day of the Triffids - a highly influential science fiction novel that puts a new perspective on carnivorous plants. We also saw a Russian literary legend, an American president and two famous Austrians - one musical, one psychoanalytical.
January 2012The year began brightly with an inscribed first edition of Ian Fleming's debut 007 novel, Casino Royale, selling for more than $45,000. The book, published in 1953, remains one of the most desirable of all modern first editions.
December 2011December's top slot went to a single leaf from a 15th century, first-edition printing of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. A rare Vonnegut was in number two, and number three was a crime collector's dream: three gelatine silver print photographs of notorious French criminal Jacques Mesrine.
November 2011AbeBooks sold a rare copy of Das Kapital for over $50,000 in November. Other top sales included a rare set of magazines, a Dr Seuss first edition, a limited edition of Crime and Punishment, a book signed by Martin Luther King and a Virginia Woolf letter planning her weekly social activities.
October 2011In October, the combined prices of our top 10 most expensive sales exceeded $98,000. The list includes books about the first British embassy in China, a handwritten diary from the American Civil War and three poetry books from South Carolina's Archibald Rutledge.
September 2011September's most expensive sales on AbeBooks include a wonderful and ultra rare copy of Dessins. Themes et Variations (pictured) by Henri Matisse, published in 1943, featuring 158 memorable plates.
August 2011August was full of intrigue, with entries from Ian Fleming's Bond series, a signed first edition by mystery maven P.D. James and a compendium of oddities from late American illustrator Edward Gorey all cracking the top five.
July 2011July saw art battle science, with a Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau collaboration and a Paul Klee collection against Easton Press' 57-volumes of science-fiction, a rare Gray's Anatomy, and a third edition of On the Origin of Species.
June 2011In June 2011 AbeBooks once again showcased the collectibility of classic science fiction works, as a signed first edition copy of the modern classic Dune by Frank Herbert sold for $7,500.
May 2011Two rare mockingbirds, two rare Agatha Christies and a gorgeous 1936 first edition of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, are just some of the stunning volumes which sold in May 2011.
April 2011A first edition of A Passage to India by E.M. Forster comes first on April's list of most expensive sales. The top 10 is eclectic as always and also visits New South Wales, Egypt, France and the cattle trails of Texas.
March 2011For a collector of modern first editions, there are few books put on a higher pedestal than The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. In March 2011, a collector purchased a first edition of this novel, via AbeBooks, for more than $20,000.
February 2011An autograph copy should not be confused with a signed copy. An autograph copy is something that was handwritten and AbeBooks has a classic example on its list of most expensive sales during February.
January 2011January's list of most expensive sales includes a lot of classic authors - Joseph Conrad, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Faulkner and Anthony Trollope to name a few - as well as some more modern and obscure items.
December 2010Nine of AbeBooks' top 10 most expensive sales during December were published in the 20th century. This selection of rare books ranges from James Joyce's Dubliners to Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father.
November 2010November was a good month for rare book sales. Our most expensive sale, a rare Islamic book about the work and words of the prophet Muhammad, went for $45,000 and was our sixth most expensive sale in the history of AbeBooks.
October 2010October's most expensive sale on AbeBooks, the famous Arion Press edition of Moby Dick with artwork by Barry Moser, illustrates how fine presses are adored by high-end book collectors.
September 2010September's top 10 most expensive sales list is a fascinating and eclectic assortment. Topping the list is a collection of personal files and documents from late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci.
August 2010August's top 10 most expensive sales list reminded us that collectors are as fascinated with related ephemera as with the books themselves, and included magazines, a letter, a travelling leather briefcase and writing desk and more.
July 2010July's most expensive list is a good one. Topping the list is a rare 1846 edition of the first English translation of Alexandre Dumas' classic tale of loyalty, adventure and camaraderie, The Three Musketeers.
June 2010June's list is a diverse list of rare books and magazines including a genre-defining Gothic novel, Dalí doing Dante, some astronomical writing, some classic Marc Chagall and a set of fantasy novels.
The most expensive books sold in May 2010 stretched from America’s Congress to Islam’s Mecca as well as a Salvador Dali illustrated edition of Dante's Divine Comedy selling for more than $8,000.
The Histories of Herodotus by Herodotus tops April's most expensive sales list at $9,750 as well as a $8,500 lithograph from Currier & Ives.
The list for March 2010 is probably the only place where you will find Herman Melville, Shakespeare, Chagall, Emily Brontë and Ted Kennedy gathered together.
February's most expensive list was a month for reference books, with our top sale being a Turkish atlas complete with hand-colored maps, and another prominent item being an 1806 Webster's dictionary.
The appeal of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia goes on and on. A set of first editions of the seven books in this classic children’s series sold for more than $8,000 in December 2009.
The combination of the Works of Charles Dickens and a signed letter from the great man himself makes AbeBooks’ most expensive sale from November 2009 into something very special indeed.
The appearance of another rare copy of The Hobbit on AbeBooks’ monthly list of most expensive sales is no surprise. Few books have combined such enduring popular appeal with enduring collectability like The Hobbit.
Rare book collectors were buying in bulk during September 2009. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, all signed and numbered first editions, easily topped our expensive sales for the month.