November 2013 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Bay Psalm Book: New World Record for Any Printed Book

9039 Bay Psalm Book, Title Hands.jpgTonight at Sotheby's New York, philanthropist David Rubenstein paid $14,165,000 for one of only 11 surviving copies of the Bay Psalm Book, the first printed book in America. Even though the sale price fell under estimate, it still exceeded the previous auction record for any printed book, held since 2010 by Audubon's Birds of America. No copy of the Bay Psalm Book had previously appeared at auction since January 1947, and this copy is very likely the last ever to go under the hammer.

According to Sotheby's, Rubenstein plans to exhibit the book around the country.

David Redden, Director of Special Projects and Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby's Books Department, commented, "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. 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."

This copy of the Bay Psalm Book was consigned by Boston's Old South Church last year in a move that caused some concern and controversy among its congregants.

Lilly Library Director Joel Silver wrote an excellent overview of the book's history for us earlier this year.

Image Courtesy of Sotheby's.