First English book printed in U.S. sold for $14.2 mil­lion

The Washington Times Daily - - Television -

NEW YORK (AP) | A tiny book of psalms from 1640, be­lieved to be the first book printed in what’s now the United States, sold for just un­der $14.2 mil­lion Tues­day, set­ting an auc­tion record for a printed book.

The Bay Psalm Book, which was auc­tioned at Sotheby’s in Man­hat­tan, had a pre­sale es­ti­mate of $15 mil­lion to $30 mil­lion. A copy of John James Audubon’s “Birds of Amer­ica” was the pre­vi­ous record-holder, sell­ing for $11.5 mil­lion at Sotheby’s in 2010.

Only 11 copies of the Bay Psalm Book sur­vive in vary­ing de­grees of com­plete­ness. The book sold at Sotheby’s was one of two owned by Bos­ton’s Old South Church, which voted to sell it to in­crease its grants and min­istries. Sa­muel Adams was a mem­ber, and Ben­jamin Franklin was bap­tized at the church, which was es­tab­lished in 1669.

“This is enor­mous for us,” said the Rev. Nancy Tay­lor, se­nior min­is­ter of the church. “It is life-chang­ing for the min­istries we can do.”

The book was bought over the phone by Amer­i­can busi­ness­man and phi­lan­thropist David Rubenstein, who plans to lend it to li­braries around the coun­try. The sale price in­cluded the buyer’s pre­mium.

In April, Ms. Tay­lor called the book “spec­tac­u­lar” and said it is “ar­guably one of the most im­por­tant books in this na­tion’s his­tory.”

The church owned five copies of the 6-inch-by-5-inch book. One is now at the Li­brary of Congress, one is at Yale Univer­sity, and one is at Brown Univer­sity.

The book was pub­lished in Cam­bridge, Mass., by the Pu­ri­tan lead­ers of the Mas­sachusetts Bay Colony just 20 years af­ter the Pil­grims landed at Ply­mouth.

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