A Latin 'Poor Man's' bible from 1491'Poor Man's' bible from 1491

Last month AbeBooks sold three historic bibles with a combined age of 1,296 years and a combined value of more than $66,000. The most expensive sale was a Latin bible from 1491 for $26,200. It’s a so-called ‘Poor Man’s bible’ printed by Johannes Froben in Basel. The nickname comes from its smaller size as bibles were printed in a large format with no expense sparred prior to Froben’s edition.

The two other rare bibles on the list are an illustrated edition from 1650 and a 'Polyglot' edition from 1599-1602 featuring text in a number of languages. Moving into the 19th century, a rare first edition of Little Women sold for $25,000 showing interest in Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel has not dimmed.

AbeBooks sold more than 250 books priced $1,000 or more during September, including the Edinburgh Stereoscopic Atlas of Obstetrics in four volumes with the set’s original viewfinder. The atlas, published in 1908 and 1909, includes a complete set of 100 stereoscopic photographic images designed for viewing through the “stereoviewer.” It sold for $1,026.

Other interesting sales included a 1957 first edition of The Cat in the Hat for $1,025; a 1981 signed first edition of Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie for $1,125; a signed copy of Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski for $1,200; an envelope signed by Flannery O’Connor for $1,200; a 1930 Art Deco-styled edition of Cocktails by Jimmy Late of Ciro’s London for $1,800; a 1956 first edition of Diamonds are Forever for $1,838; a signed copy of Sex by Madonna for $1,998; a set of signed first editions of John Le Carre’s ‘Karla’ trilogy for $2,950; and a first edition of The Great Gatsby (lacking its dust jacket, of course) for $4,250.

Another highlight was the sale of the wonderfully named Giggle Water: Including Eleven Famous Cocktails of The Most Exclusive Club in New York by Charles D Warnock for $1,950 – an ultra-rare self-published cocktail recipe book from 1928.


September’s Most Expensive Sales on AbeBooks

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
1 A Latin bible from 1491 - $26,200
A copy of a ‘Poor Man’s Bible’ (so-called because of its smaller size) printed by Johann Froben in Basel. It was the first bible to be printed in an octavo format, making it easier to transport and more affordable to a common church-goer. Until the publication of Froben’s edition, bibles were massive, iconic objects.

2= Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - $25,000
A true first edition, in two volumes, from 1868. The book is accompanied by a small slip of paper signed by Alcott.

2= A Polyglot bible from 1599-1602 edited by Elisa Hutter - $25,000
A folio bible in six volumes bound in blind-stamped tooled leather. This is the first multi-language bible in which English is one of the languages. Western and Eastern European languages are placed in columns parallel to the classical Hebrew, Greek and Latin. This book is often referred to as the ‘Nuremberg Polyglot’ or ‘Hutter-Polyglot’. Hutter was a professor of Hebrew in Leipzig.

4 Cosmographia by Petrus Apianus - $23,681
Printed in Paris, this is pioneering book on astronomy and geography from 1551.  It features a large folding woodcut map and many diagrams defining weather, climate and the continents. A hugely influential book, it was widely translated in later years.

5 Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri - $16,500
A 1506 copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy that is a rare counterfeit of a 1502 edition.

Lindenia Iconography of Orchids

6 The Pyramids of Gizeh by John Shae Perring - $16,263
Three parts in one volume, published in 1839-1842. A large folio edition with 59 plates featuring sketches by J.E. Andrews. A key book on Egyptian archaeology written by a gifted explorer, topographer and draftsman.

7 An illustrated bible from 1650 - $15,000
This 17th century bible produced by Nicolaum Johannis Piscatorem and featuring 480 copperplate engravings.

8 Lindenia Iconography of Orchids - $13,342
Complete set, First English edition, 1891 - 1897. Bound in six folio volumes, with plates chromolithographed by P. de Pannemaeker, G. Severeyns, and J.Goffart.

9 Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux by Georges Louis Leclerc Buffon - $12,833
Books one, two, four, six and nine from a set of 10 published from 1770 to 1786. A landmark ornithology book with illustrations by François Nicolas Martinet.

10 Postilla in Quattuor Evangelistas by Nicholas De Lyra - $12,750
A book of commentaries on the New Testament published in 1488 but now with a contemporary binding. Nicholas De Lyra was a Franciscan teacher who worked at the Sorbonne and later led France’s Franciscan order.


Tell us about the most rare, beautiful or unusual bible you've seen:

More to Explore

Book Collecting Guide First editions Illuminated Manuscripts