AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales

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

April to June 2019

April to June 2019

Books featuring James Bond, Atticus Finch and Sherlock Holmes all sold for impressive prices during April, May and June.

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January, February & March 2019

January, February & March 2019

Our first most expensive list of 2019 includes sets, signed first editions, nature photography, Roman poetry, exploration, children's literature and birds of a feather.

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Year 2018

Year 2018

Our list of the most expensive sales of the year never fails to be diverse. 2018's top sales ranged from one of the great scientific minds of the 17th century to a 21st century screenprint of a cartoon mouse.

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July, August & September 2018

July, August & September 2018

The purchase of a Galileo book for more than $80,000 was AbeBooks' most expensive sale of the year so far. It is the highest priced item to sell via our marketplace since A Natural History of Birds sold for $191,000 in 2015.

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April, May & June 2018

April, May & June 2018

An Esther Scroll, first editions, old cooking books, 14th century medieval Breviary...

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January, February & March 2018

January, February & March 2018

This list details books of significance covering medicine, philosophy, law, art, mathematics, photography, ornithology and four legendary authors of fiction in Dickens, Kipling, Conan Doyle, and Carroll.

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Year 2017

Year 2017

Literary icon J.D. Salinger wears the crown as AbeBooks's most expensive sale of the year. The American author scores extra points for appearing again at number 11. A signed poster - not a book - comes in at number two.

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July, August & September 2017

July, August & September 2017

An Oklahoma oil baron's personal collection of literary erotica is featured on AbeBooks' list of the most expensive sales in July, August and September.

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April, May & June 2017

April, May & June 2017

The sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1982 abstract painting of a skull for $110.5 million in May shocked the art world. The record-breaking Basquiat auction sale immediately sparked the sale of a remarkable poster on AbeBooks featuring Basquiat and pop artist Andy Warhol for more than $20,000.

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January, February & March 2017

January, February & March 2017

Ground-breaking botany, the works of two famous English writers, racy fashion photography, an iconic novel about mental illness, and some illustrated poetry make up our top 10 list of expensive sales from the first three months of 2016.

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January, February & March 2016

January, February & March 2016

Ground-breaking botany, the works of two famous English writers, racy fashion photography, an iconic novel about mental illness, and some illustrated poetry make up our top 10 list of expensive sales from the first three months of 2016.

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Year 2016

Year 2016

The only Alice that matters, the essential Mr. Dickens, the farsighted Mr. Wells, the earnest Mr. Wilde, the singular Ms. Lee, a rather sad British Bulldog, a genius called Geisel, and the one and only Pooh are all here.

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Year 2015

Year 2015

The year began with a Natural History of Birds, a famous Italian ornithology book from 1765, becoming AbeBooks' most expensive sale ever at $191,000.

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Year 2014

Year 2014

Many of the most famous names in literature are found on our list, including Lewis Carroll, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Harper Lee, Salman Rushdie, JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, William Wordsworth, and Voltaire.

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September 2014

September 2014

We've hand-picked a gallery of 10 of the most interesting books sold in September, starting with the first collected works of Winston Churchill and ending with a Raymond Chandler first edition, the second Chandler novel to appear on the list in as many months.

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August 2014

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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July 2014

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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June 2014

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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May 2014

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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April 2014

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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March 2014

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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February 2014

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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January 2014

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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December 2013

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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November 2013

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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October 2013

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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September 2013

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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August 2013

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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July 2013

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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June 2013

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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May 2013

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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April 2013

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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March 2013

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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February 2013

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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January 2013

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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December 2012

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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November 2012

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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October 2012

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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September 2012

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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August 2012

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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July 2012

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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June 2012

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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May 2012

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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April 2012

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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March 2012

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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February 2012

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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January 2012

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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December 2011

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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November 2011

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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October 2011

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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September 2011

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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August 2011

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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July 2011

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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June 2011

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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May 2011

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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April 2011

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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March 2011

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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February 2011

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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January 2011

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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December 2010

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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November 2010

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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October 2010

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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September 2010

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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August 2010

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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July 2010

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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June 2010

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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May 2010

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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April 2010

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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March 2010

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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February 2010

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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January 2010

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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December 2009

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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November 2009

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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October 2009

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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September 2009

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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