The 4 Most Valuable Rare Books
Published by “In Good Taste” 2020
Rare and valuable books don’t have to be centuries old—though many of them are. They can be ancient artifacts, first edition books, or the earliest edition of a coveted modern novel, across any genre. Outside of rarity and condition, books considered truly “rare” are those that have helped to mold history or that have impacted our society in a profound way. And even as our society advances and relies less on physical works to document our history, the finite amount of copies available ensures the health of this market for years to come.
Below are four of the most valuable and best-known rare books today:
The First Atlas by Claudius Ptolemy (1477)
In 1477, the first printed edition of Ptolemy’s “Geographia” with maps was issued in Bologna. Considered one of the world’s first printed atlases, this original version of this work was created by Claudius Ptolemy in 150 AD. Only three original copies of the first printed versions remain, with one copy going for $3.9 million at Sotheby’s in 2006.
First Folio by William Shakespeare (1623)
Printed in folio format (four pages of text are printed on each sheet; two on either side) with folio paper size dimensions; 304.8 x 482.6 mm, and containing 36 plays. There are less than 300 copies of the first collection of Shakespeare’s works still available today, and they are rare to hit the market. In 2001, one copy sold at the auction house Christie’s for $6.2 million.
The Birds of America by James Audubon (1820)
This map-sized book is home to drawings of over 400 American birds. And while experts believe that 120 copies still exist today, their rarity has led to one copy selling for $11.5 million in 2010 at Sotheby’s.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard (1820)
Autograph Manuscript individually handwritten and extensively illustrated by the author, c.160 pages containing c.5500 words, written in an Italian hand-made notebook. Acid-free deckle-edged cream-coloured leaves (167 by 111mm.), bound in brown morocco (175 by 114mm.) embellished on upper cover by Edinburgh silversmiths Hamilton and Inches. It has five individually hand-chased hallmarked sterling silver ornaments and mounted moonstones, spine in compartments with raised bands, folding clasp, green endpapers, green head and foot bands together with green marker ribbon.
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (2008), Public Edition: Seven handmade copies were created in the early 2000s, and given away as gifts. Before printed copies were released in 2008, one original handmade work sold at Sotheby’s for $3.98 million in 2007.