An auction held at Sotheby’s earlier this week fetched $14.2 million for one of eleven remaining books that were the first to be printed in the U.S.
The book, a copy of the Bay Psalm Book, was printed in 1640 and is one of the rarest tomes in the world. This auction marked the first copy to be sold since 1947; it was previously owned by Boston’s Old South Church, but church officials said they made the decision to sell it around this time last year in order to fund necessary repairs.
“We are delighted,” Nancy Taylor, senior minister and CEO of Old South Church, said.
The book set a new record for Sotheby’s, whose previous highest auction price for the printed word was $11.5 million.
“We are thrilled that this book, which is so important to our history and culture, is destined to be widely seen by Americans who can appreciate its singular significance,” said David Redden, chairman of Sotheby’s books department. “We are of course also thrilled to have achieved a new world auction record price for any printed book, which affirms that books remain a vital part of our culture.”
Auction houses have seen some interesting items up for bid this year; Julien’s sold X-rays of Marilyn Monroe’s face, along with other medical records, for $25,000. While some wondered how it was appropriate–or legal–to sell off someone’s personal medical information, Julien’s executive director Martin Nolan said that not only was it perfectly within the boundaries of the law, it was also a big draw for fans of the late icon.
“Keep in mind, this is pop-culture history,” Nolan said. “[Marilyn’s] date back to the 1950s. Today there are laws preventing the release of such information, but this is prior to that law. Even though X-rays are not tangible like a musical instrument or clothing, it’s part of the story of Marilyn that people are buying. There is such a demand for her worldwide even though it is 50 years since she passed away. Honestly, I could have an auction every day for Marilyn Monroe and the items would be sought after.”