First edition, first impression of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale
Casino Royale
Ian Fleming

It was a bumper year for rare bookselling on AbeBooks. Our top 10 list of the most expensive sales of 2010 includes nothing priced under $14,000. The top sale was a very rare Islamic manuscript, around 800 years old, for a whopping $45,000. The sale of the archives of Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, for almost $29,000, raised a lot of eyebrows in Italy. Fallici died in 2006 but is still remembered for her revealing interviews of major international figures.

The list is broad and varied. A fine press edition of Moby Dick by Herman Melville sold for $28,900 – the Grolier Club described it as one of the most beautiful books of the 20th century.  There was a first edition of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale – a novel with a head-turning dust jacket design.  There was also a set of botanical magazines, more Melville and an Ottoman Atlas.

We also showcase the most expensive sales in children's books, art books, photography, poetry, religious & theology books, science books, ephemera, flower books, modern firsts, romance, science fiction & fantasy and books written by a President.

Take a moment to discover what is now sitting on the bookshelves of the world’s big-spenders.

AbeBooks' Top 10 Most Expensive Sales in 2010

1. Arabic Manuscript of Al Wajaza Fi Sihhat Il Qawl Bi l Ijaza - $45,000
This is an important work on Hadith methodology (narrations concerning the words and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad) that was originally written in the 10th century AD. This copy was published in the 12th-13th century A.D. and contained an ownership mark on the title page from a well known scholar called Ibrahim B. Sulleymanb Muhammad B. Abd Ul Aziz Al Hanafi Al Jinini, who bought it while living in Damascus in 1659 A.D.

2. Archive of Letters, Manuscripts, Documents, Articles and Ephemera by Oriana Fallaci - $28,994
An original archive of the personal files of one of the 20th century's most celebrated, notable and influential women. Fallaci was an Italian writer and journalist who was an accomplished war reporter - in Vietnam, Latin America, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent but made her name with stunning star interviews which were meticulously researched and often lasted several hours. Some of her more famous moments included ripping off her chador while interviewing Ayatollah Khomeini, throwing a microphone at Muhammad Ali's face when he belched in answer to one of her questions, and quoting the Shah of Iran as saying “Women are important ... only if they're beautiful and charming and keep their femininity... you're equal in the eyes of the law, but not ... in intelligence." She spoke English, French, Spanish as well as Italian and hated to use interpreters, she described her interviews as "coitus" and "a seduction".

The archive itself features thousands of pages, totalling over 50 pounds of papers, mostly categorized by subject and includes the personal research materials and handwritten notes from the woman that Elizabeth Mehren of the Los Angeles Times described as "the journalist to whom virtually no world figure would say no."

Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville - published by The Arion Press. This edition printed in 1981.
Moby-Dick or, The Whale
Herman Melville
Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville - published by The Arion Press. sold for $28,900

3. Moby Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville - $28,900
Super deluxe version of The Arion Press’ 1979 printing of Melville’s classic which was limited to 265 copies. This issue includes 200 engravings and 10 drawings all signed by the illustrator, Barry Moser. This edition has been described as one of the 100 most beautiful books printed in Europe and America in the 20th century by the Grolier Club.

4. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon - $27,500
Published in 1776 in six volumes, the first of these volumes was limited to 1,000 copies in its first printing so complete sets of first editions are very rare. The set is considered a major literary achievement as it was adopted as a model for modern historical methodologies and led Gibbon to be described as the first modern historian of Ancient Rome.

5. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming - $19,529
One of the most collectible modern first editions available this was a first edition, first impression copy of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, housed in a black quarter morocco solander box made by The Chelsea Bindery.

6. Ottoman Atlas - $19,500
Published in 1860s, this atlas contains 31 hand-colored maps prepared and printed in the Muhendishane I Berri Humayun (the Royal School of Millitary Engineering in Istanbul).

7. The Works of Herman Melville - $17,250
Complete in 16 volumes, this 1922 set was limited to 750 sets, this is No. 258, and contains many first printings, Billy Budd and all the poems except Battle-Pieces, John Marr, and Timoleon as well as the first British printing of Clarel.

8. The Botanical Magazine (42 vols) by William Curtis - $15,592
A collection of the first 42 volumes and index of this magazine launched in 1787. It went on to become the longest running botanical magazine. These first volumes contain more than 1,800 hand-colored plates.

9. Book of Kells - $14,859
This 1990 facsimile edition of the Verlag Luzern edition of this mystic testimony of early Irish Christianity was limited to 1480 copies. Written in German, it contains miniatures (illustrations) of the early Middle Ages and is one of the most beautiful holy books ever created.

10. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States by Joseph Story - $14,062
Edited by Thomas M. Cooley, a first edition of this famous political commentary. One of only two treatise written about early American constitutional law written by a sitting Supreme Court Justice. Henry Baldwin's General View is the other.

More Expensive Sales Below

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

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - $8,500
First edition copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1885.  This edition contains the scarce "Curved Fly" illustration.

2. The Works of J.S., D.D., D.S.P.D. in Four Volumes by Jonathan Swift - $8,250
First collected edition of Swift's work with the authorized text of Gulliver's Travels.

3. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson - $6,000
First edition, first printing, from a run of 2,000 copies in 1883.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Art Books

1. Toros by Pablo Picasso & Pablo Neruda - $10,000
The complete portfolio with 15 pochoirs, or hand illustrations, by Picasso, each numbered in pencil.

2. The Anatomy of the Horse by George Stubbs - $9,000
Before Stubbs became a household name for painting beautiful horses, he researched and completed this book of equine drawings, including bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, nerves, arteries, veins and glands. Published in 1766.

3. American Winter Sports - Deer Shooting on the Shattagee by Currier & Ives - $8,500
A lithograph from 1855 showing two men hiding behind a pine tree, its boughs heavy with snow. Their guns are aimed at three deer on the opposite bank of a river.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Photography Books

1. Ravens by Masahisa Fukase - $5,500
First edition, first printing of this photo book which is comprised of photos of ravens in various settings, signed by Fukase.

2. The Vatican Frescoes of Michelangelo (Photographs) by Takashi Okamura - $5,000
Two volumes of plates, elephant folios, 1991. This is copy 40 of 600. Japanese photographer Okamura spent years photographing the frescoes from scaffolding. The close-up images are a unique record.

3. Paris de Nuit by Brassaï and Paul Morand - $3,872
This first edition combines Brassaï's photos with Morand’s introduction. This collection of 60 photographs showcases the seedier side of Paris, as well as the city's high society, its intellectuals, its ballet, and grand operas. The book created a sensation when it was published; many pictures from the series were deemed too risqué and were not exhibited or published for decades, until the 1976 sequel.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Poetry Books

1= Hesperides Or, The Works Both Humane & Divine Of Robert Herrick by Robert Herrick - $10,000
Published in 1648, Herrick's effort contains almost 1400 poems. This remains the only effort by an important English poet to publish his works in one organized collection.

1= Paradise Lost by John Milton - $10,000
A beautiful 1833 edition illustrated by John Martin with 48 mezzotints. Martin (1789-1854) was an instrumental English painter, engraver and illustrator in the Romantic Movement.

3. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot - $5,000
The first appearance of the Eliot poem, this publication in the June 1915 issue of Poetry Magazine precedes the book edition by two years. It was Eliot's first publication of a poem outside of school or university.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Religious & Theology Books

1. Arabic Manuscript of Al Wajaza Fi Sihhat Il Qawl Bi l Ijaza - $45,000
This is an important work on Hadith methodology (narrations concerning the words and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad) that was originally written in the 10th century AD. This copy was published in the 12th-13th century A.D. and contained an ownership mark on the title page from a well known scholar called Ibrahim B. Sulleymanb Muhammad B. Abd Ul Aziz Al Hanafi Al Jinini, who bought it while living in Damascus in 1659 A.D.

2. The Holy Bible: Reprinted according to the authorized version of 1611 - $7,500
The full pressing contained 1,075 copies, this was one of only 75 which were printed on Arnold unbleached rag paper. This five-volume set was published from 1924-27 by the Nonesuch Press in London.

3. Mir'at al Haramain aw al rihlat ul Hijaziyya wa l Hajj wa masha'iruhu ad Diniyya by Ibrahim Rif'aat Pasha - $6,000
View of the tow holy sanctuaries, or travels in Hejaz and the Hajj and its religious ceremonies was written in Arabic text and published in 1925 in two volumes. This copy was signed by the author, an Egyptian Major-General, who completed the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina four times.

 

The Anatomy of the Horse by George Stubbs
The Anatomy of the Horse
George Stubbs
Paris de Nuit by Paul Morand
Paris de Nuit
Paul Morand
The Botanical Magazine by William Curtis
The Botanical Magazine
William Curtis
Linda Tressel by Anthony Trollope
Linda Tressel
Anthony Trollope
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë & illustrated by Balthus
Wuthering Heights
illustrated by Balthus

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Science Books

1. Mundus Subterraneus by Athanasius Kircher - $10,000
Kircher was a 17th century Jesuit scholar who, among other things, specialized in geology. Mundus Subterraneus was originally published in 1664 and it suggests the tides were caused by water moving to and from a subterranean ocean. This edition was published in 1678.

2. Systema Cosmicum in quo Dialogis by Galileo - $6,023
First Latin edition of Galileo's astronomical work and his advancement of the Copernican system. The author was imprisoned after the publication of this book’s Italian first edition.

3. Steganographia by Johannes Trithemius - $4,606
This classic text on cryptography was published in 1676 by Christopher Küchler.  This edition of Trithemius’ Steganographia, edited by W. E. Heidel, is identical to that which bears the imprint of J. P. Zubrodt, also printed at Mainz in 1676.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Ephemera

1. Archive of Letters, Manuscripts, Documents, Articles and Ephemera by Oriana Fallaci - $28,994
An original archive of the personal files of one of the 20th century's most celebrated, notable and influential women. Fallaci was an Italian writer and journalist who was an accomplished war reporter but made her name with stunning star interviews.

2. Typed Signed Letters by Mohandas Gandhi - $9,500
This early Ghandi letter was written in reference to his role in the Zulu War of 1906, where Ghandi argued that the British ought to recruit Indians to assist in the war effort in order to legitimise their claims to full British citizenship. Ghandi lived in South Africa from 1893 to 1914.

3. Original Sketches by J.K. Rowling - $8,075
Sketches by Rowling from the pre-Harry Potter era, including an illustrated invitation to Jessica Rowling’s 3rd birthday. The invitation was in the form of an old western “wanted” poster; it shows a collection of cowboys and indians above a guitar and a cactus and says ‘Please leave all guns, bows and arrows and tomahawks at your ranch/wigwam.’

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Flower Books

1. The Botanical Magazine (42 vols) by William Curtis - $15,592
A collection of the first 42 volumes and index of this magazine launched in 1787. It went on to become the longest running botanical magazine. These first volumes contain more than 1,800 hand-colored plates.

2. The Illustrated Bouquet, Consisting of Figures with Description of New Flowers by Edward George & Andrew Henderson - $12,813
Published in 1857 in three volumes and including 84 hand-colored engravings by James Andrews and C.T. Rosenberg.

3. The Botanical Magazine: or, Flower Garden Displayed - $4,981
Published by William Curtis beginning in 1787, it was the premier journal for early botanical illustration. This set included eight volumes bound into four from 1790-1796

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Modern Firsts

1. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming - $19,529
One of the most collectible modern first editions available, this was a first edition.

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - $8,000
A first edition, first printing of Salinger’s great novel from 1951.

3. Nine Stories J.D. Salinger - $6,500
A first edition of Salinger's second book and first collection of short stories from 1953.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Romance Books

1. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe - $8,800
Four first edition volumes from 1794 in three-quarter green leather. Radcliffe's novel launched the Gothic romance genre, that continues with the likes of Stephenie Meyer, and is a seminal piece of writing.

2. Linda Tressel by Anthony Trollope - $5,500
First edition from 1868 in two volumes. Linda Tressel and its companion book, Nina Balatka, were published without the author’s name as part of an experiment by Trollope to determine whether the public were buying his books because of the author's fame, or the quality of his writing.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë & illustrated by Balthus - $3,500
Published in 1993, this edition of Brontë’s classic gothic romance is illustrated with 15 lithographic plates by Balthus. This was No. 4 of 300 copies signed by Balthus on the colophon.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Science Fiction & Fantasy Books

1. Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini - $6,000
First edition in two volumes published in 1981, limited to 4,000 copies and signed by the author. Arguably the weirdest book ever printed.

2. Weird Tales edited by Edwin Baird - $5,000
April 1923 issue of Weird Tales; the second ever issue of the renowned science fiction, fantasy and horror pulp fiction magazine.

3. The Belgariad by David Eddings - $4,500
A set of British first editions of all five books in Eddings’ epic fantasy series. Each hardcover is signed on the title page by the author (1931-2009). Published between 1983 and 1985.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Books Written by a President

1. African Game Trails: An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist by Theodore Roosevelt - $8,125
First edition from 1910, this is an account of Roosevelt’s 1909 hunting trip made shortly after his presidency. Signed and inscribed to John B. Pratt, a journalist who often traveled with him.

2. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama - $4,000
First edition, first printing of the 44th President’s first book, published in 1995.

3. The Road to Justice: Three Major Statements on Civil Rights by Lyndon B. Johnson - $3,750
A 55 page pamphlet published in 1965 including "The American Promise", "To Fulfill These Rights", and "The Doors Open".  This copy was signed by the President to author Leo Rosten.

See All of AbeBooks' Most Expensive Monthly Sales


First Edition Books Signed Books Collectible Authors