The first book ever printed in what was yet to be the United States of America is going up for auction at Sotheby’s auction house in New York tomorrow, and is expected to go for anywhere between $15-30 million on the auction block.
The book, commonly known as the Bay Psalm Book and officially known as the Whole Book of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, was first printed by Stephen Day in 1640 in the Pilgrims’ colony in Massachusetts. The first edition featured 1,700 copies of the 300 page book, which were translations from the Book of Psalms in Hebrew Scriptures. The Pilgrims had brought psalm books with them from England, but wanted a more faithful translation of the original, as well as one that was more conducive to congregational singing.
There are only 11 known copies of the first edition in existence, most of which are housed in libraries and major collections. Two belong to Boston’s historic Old South Church, which is putting one up for auction in order to pay for operating costs. Though the book has been criticized in the past for a lack of editorial oversight and a mediocre printing standard, its historical significance as the first book printed in America could make it the most valuable book in the world. If the Bay Psalm Book sells for the price estimated by Sotheby’s, it will break the record of $11.5 million which was paid for a copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America in 2010. Keep an eye on our blog to see how much the book goes for!
Update: The Bay Psalm Book sold for $14.2 million! Not too shabby.
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