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Very first book printed in U.S. sold at auction for record-breaking $14 million

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 27th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Naysayers will proclaim that we are living in a post-literate world, with interest in the printed word being at an all-time low. Regardless, a book has fetched $14 million at auction, breaking all records. "The Bay Psalm Book," the first book printed in the continental United States fetched $14,165,000 at Sotheby's, making it the world's most expensive book.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - From 1640, the book that went before the auction block is just one of 11 known copies of the religious volume. According to the Reverend Nancy Taylor senior minister and CEO of Boston's Old South Church, the organization voted to sell one of the two copies it owns in order to boost its grants and ministries.

Purchased by American businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein, Sotheby's says he "plans to share it with the American public by loaning it to libraries across the country, before putting it on long-term loan at one of them."

The nearly 350-year-old church at one time owned five copies of the 6-by-5-inch book. One is now housed at the Library of Congress, with the others at Yale University and Brown University.

"Of inestimable significance, 'The Bay Psalm Book' is not simply one of the great icons of book history, it is one of the greatest artifacts of American history," Sotheby's declared on its Web site.

Listed with a pre-sale estimate of $15 to $30 million, much more than the selling price of the previous record-holder for a printed book, which was a copy of John James Audubon's "Birds of America." That edition was sold for $11.5 million at Sotheby's three years ago.

Congregationalist Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony published the slim volume in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just 20 years after the Pilgrims first arrived at Plymouth seeking freedom from religious persecution.

Intended to be a faithful translation into English of the original Hebrew psalms, Puritans believed that paraphrasing them would undermine their salvation, according to the Sotheby's official Web site.

Some 1,700 copies were printed on a press that had been shipped from England.

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