AbeBooks’ most expensive sales of the month list is probably the only place where you will find Herman Melville, William Shakespeare, Marc Chagall, Emily Brontë and Ted Kennedy gathered together. The Moby Dick author appears on March’s top 10 sales list courtesy of a whopping $17,250 order for his works in 16 volumes. Almost 30 years after it was first published, Codex Seraphinianus continues to fascinate readers (although you can’t actually read it). First editions of this weird book, featuring its own undecipherable alphabet, are very hard to find now but affordable reprints mean most people can still enjoy the fantasy world created by Italian artist Luigi Serafini.
1. 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.
2. La Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) by Torquanto Tasso - $13,337
This edition of La Gerusalemme Liberata was published in 1745 and tells a largely fictionalized version of the first Crusade.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. First English translation of the collected works of Nicholas Machiavel by Henry Nevile - $5,335
Second issue of the Nevile’s English translation published in 1680, including The Florentine History, The Prince The Discourses on the First Decade of Livy, and The Art of War as well as a number of other pieces.
6. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare with annotations and introduction by Sidney Lee - $3,950
Published in 1907 in 40 volumes.
7. Id Est, Liber Iezirah. Una Cum Commentario Rabi Abraham F. D. edited by Johann Stephan Rittangel - $3,900
The Book of Formation, published 1642. The Hebrew text of Sefer Yetzirah with the parallel Latin translation by Johannes Stephanus Rittangelius. The second Hebrew edition and the third Latin one, and presumably the first bilingual edition of this key book of Kabbalah.
8 =The Fruitful Bough by Edward M. Kennedy - $3,500
Published in 1965, one of 160 privately printed copies of this essay about Joseph Patrick Kennedy, father of John, Bobby and Ted. Presentation to Oscar Haussermen."To Oscar Haussermen who helped make made the Fruitful Bough possible with appreciation Ted Kennedy Sept 6,1965."
8 = Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and 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.
8 = Drawing for the Bible by Gaston Bachelard, illustrated by Marc Chagall- $3,500
Published in 1960, Bachelard’s text is accompanied by 24 color lithographs and 96 plates in black and white.