AbeBooks periodically publishes a list of the most stunning books recently sold. 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

The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler

August 2014

In addition to August's most expensive sales, we hand-picked 10 of the most fascinating sales from the month for a new slideshow gallery, starting with some stunning vintage pulp and ending with a voyage to the North Pole.

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The New Adventures of Rupert by Alfred Bestall

July 2014

Holding together July's list of bumper sales are a pair of bronze Scottie dog bookends sculpted by Marguerite Kirmse. Between the dogs are signed first editions and the very first Rupert Annual, published in 1936.

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The Adventures Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

June 2014

June's big ticket sales include a rare book about Paris’ great opera house, an 1876 first edition of Twain’s classic tale of life along the Mississippi, and yet another copy of Luigi Serafini's bizarre art book, Codex Seraphinianus.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

May 2014

Topping May's list is a deluxe facsimile edition of Flemish illuminator Simon Bening’s Da Costa Hours. Rounding out the list are first editions from Twain, Wilde, Milne, and Emily Bronte. The first American edition of Bronte's only novel, Wuthering Heights, is bound in three-quarter leather with marbled boards.

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Call for the Dead by John le Carre

April 2014

April's most expensive sales on AbeBooks includes three highly-coveted modern first editions, including a 1961 signed copy of John le Carré's debut novel, Call for the Dead, and a 1955 signed copy of Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find.

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Box of Pin-Ups by David Bailey

March 2014

March's most expensive list includes a great deal of art, including a collection of French magazines featuring late 19th century Art Nouveau posters, mid-20th century watercolors from Marc Chagall, and iconic 1960s photography from British snapper David Bailey.

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Aquatilium animalium historiae, liber primus, cum eorundem formis, aere excusis by Ippolito Salviani

February 2014

A beautiful fish book, published in 1554, sold for more than $22,000 on AbeBooks topping February's sales. The list also includes John Steinbeck, Dante (including an unflattering reference to his big nose), Pablo Picasso and a remarkable book about American trees.

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Alice in Wonderland Illustrated by Salvador Dali

January 2014

In 1969, Salvador Dali illustrated Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Only 2,500 copies were produced and one of them sold for five figures last month. The list also includes a collection of rare Salman Rushdie books, a pioneering calculus book, a famous signed tale from Middle-earth and poetry.

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Light in August by William Faulkner

December 2013

December's big ticket items include two mouthwatering rare books - a 1932 first edition of Light in August by William Faulkner and an 1897 first of Bram Stoker's Dracula, both signed.

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Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

November 2013

A signed first edition of Lady Sings the Blues appears on November's list of most expensive sales, along with a letter signed by a king and Salvador Dali's interpretation of Alice in Wonderland.

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Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley by Phillis Wheatley

October 2013

October'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.

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Lord of the Flies by William Golding

September 2013

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.

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A Signed Photograph of Ernest Hemingway

August 2013

Ernest 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.

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Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

July 2013

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.

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Kupfer-Bibel by Johann Jakob Scheuchzer

June 2013

June'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.

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Image from Tibet and Lhasa by John Claude White

May 2013

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.

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Valley of Fear: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

April 2013

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.

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Guest Book, Castello Bar

March 2013

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.

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The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James Watson

February 2013

February'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.

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Now in November by Josephine Johnson

January 2013

A 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.

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Pasiphae by Henri Matisse

December 2012

December'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.

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Pierre-Joseph Redouté's Flowers

November 2012

The 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.

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The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock

October 2012

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.

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'Poor Man's' bible from 1491

September 2012

In 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.

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The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock

August 2012

The 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.

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Don Quixote illustrated by Salvador Dali

July 2012

A 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.

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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

June 2012

While 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.

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Herefordshire Pomona by Robert Hogg

May 2012

May 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.

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Franz Kafka's Die Verwandlung

April 2012

A 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.

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Theatrum Fungorum by Franciscus van Sterbeeck

March 2012

A 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.

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The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

February 2012

Our 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.

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Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

January 2012

The 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.

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The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

December 2011

December'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.

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Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

November 2011

AbeBooks 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.

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An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China by Sir George Leonard Staunton

October 2011

In 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.

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Dessins. Themes et Variations by Henri Matisse

September 2011

September'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.

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Cover Her Face by P.D. James

August 2011

August 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.

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Picasso de 1916 à 1961 by Jean Cocteau

July 2011

July 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.

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Dune by Frank Herbert

June 2011

In 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.

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Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind

May 2011

Two 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.

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A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

April 2011

A 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.

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick - sold for $12,500

March 2011

For 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.

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Biggles The Camels are Coming by W.E. Johns. Sold for $17,754

February 2011

An 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. 

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe

January 2011

January'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.

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

December 2010

Nine 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.

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Thesaurus Linguae Latinae by Robert Estienne

November 2010

November 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.

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Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville - published by The Arion Press. This edition printed in 1981.

October 2010

October'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.

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Interview with History by Oriana Fallaci - a bundle of her personal files was September's top sale at $28,994

September 2010

September'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.

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The Botanical Magazine (42 vols) by William Curtis - sold for $15,592

August 2010

August'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.

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The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

July 2010

July'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.

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Book one of the Belgariad by David Eddings

June 2010

June'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.

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Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt

May 2010

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.

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American Winter Sports - Deer Shooting on the Shattagee  by Currier & Ives

April 2010

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.

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Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini is considered one of the strangest books ever published.

March 2010

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.

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A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language - Noah Webster, 1806

February 2010

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.

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Les Diners de Gala / The Dali Cookbook by Salvador Dali

January 2010

Following J.D Salinger’s death on 27 January, AbeBooks witnessed a surge in sales of The Catcher in the Rye and his writing in general. Two of Salinger’s books appear on our first most expensive sales list.

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The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

December 2009

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.

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Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

November 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.

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A signed, second edition of Tolkien's The Hobbit

October 2009

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.

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Stephen King's Gunslinger: Book One of the Dark Tower Series

September 2009

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.

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