SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK – It’s been called “The Gutenberg Bible of America”, the Bay Psalm Book, the first book ever printed in America. On November 26 at a highly publicized auction in Midtown Manhattan, Philanthropist David Rubenstein paid $14,165,000 for one of only 11 surviving copies, exceeding the previous auction record for any printed book, held since 2010 by Audubon’s Birds of America.
The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, more commonly known as the Bay Psalm Book, survives in far fewer copies than does the Gutenberg Bible, and is much rarer on the market. It hasn’t appeared at auction since 1947, when it brought the unexpectedly high price of $151,000.
The Old South Church of Boston, the owner of two copies of the Bay Psalm Book, voted in December 2012 to sell one. 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.”