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10 Of The Most Expensive Books In The World

Take a look below for our list of 10 of the most expensive books in the world.

1. The Codex Leicester

A collection of scientific writings by Leonardo da Vinci, the Codex Leicester is officially the most expensive book ever sold. Purchased in a 1994 auction for $30.8 million by billionaire Bill Gates, the book is put on display in a different city every year.

2. The Gospels of Henry the Lion

Produced in the late 12th century (between 1175 – 1188) for Henry the Lion at the Benedictine Helmarshausen Abbey in Germany, the 266-page manuscript is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque book illumination of the time. It was bought by a German national group at a Sotheby’s auction in 1983 for $12.4 million.

3. The Birds of America

First published in the early 19th century by painter and naturalist John James Audubon, The Birds of America is a series of life sized paintings of various birds and is often referred to as the greatest picture book ever made. In 2000 an original print copy sold at Christie’s for $8.8 million, making it the most expensive printed book ever sold.

4. The Canterbury Tales

Coming in at fourth on the list of most expensive books ever sold is The Canterbury Tales written by English author Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. It is made up of a collection of short stories that paints a critical portrait of the Church and English society at the time.

5. First Folio: Comedies, Histories and Tragedies

Published in 1623 a few years after Shakespeare’s death, ‘Comedies, Histories and Tragedies’ is a collection of almost all of the great writer’s known plays. Often referred to as the First Folio, it is the only reliable source available for 20 of Shakespeare’s plays. It became one of the most expensive books in the world when a copy was sold at auction in New York for just over $6 million in 2001.

6. The Northumberland Bestiary

A 13th century English manuscript, the Northumberland Bestiary is a collection of ink drawings of both real and imaginary animals, depicting moral stories and proverbs. It was bought at auction by a private collector in 1990 for close to $6 million, though it has recently been made available for display to the Getty museum.

7. The Gutenberg Bible

The Gutenberg Bible marked the new era of the movable type printing press developed by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450s. Lauded for its artistic qualities, only 21 complete copies survive in the world today. Many argue that they are the most valuable books in the world, though they only come in at number 6 on our list after a $5.4 million sale in for an incomplete copy in 1987 (a complete copy hasn’t sold since a $2.5 million sale in 1978).

8. Trait des Arbres Fruitiers

Literally translating to ‘Treatise on Fruit Trees’, this French manuscript is a collection of writings and illustrations compiled by Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau in the mid 18th century. Detailing a variety of species of fruit trees, it was recently sold for $4.5 million in 2006.

9. Ptolemy’s Geographia

Also known as the Geography, Cosmographia or Geographike Hyphegesis, Geographia is one of Ptolemy’s main works, produced in the 2nd century and detailing what was known about the world’s geography at the time. Basically the first atlas ever made, Ptolemy’s Geographia fetched a cool $4.2 million in a sale in 2006.

10. Mozart’s 9 Symphonies Manuscript

Closing out our list of the ten most expensive books ever sold might not be classed as a book by some, but a collection of 9 of the great composer’s symphonies, autographed by Mozart himself, sold for a little over $4 million back in 1990.

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