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Book of psalms shatters auction record

Centuries-old American psalter sold for $14.2 million

Book of psalms shatters auction record

Picture: Religion News Service

On a dark, damp and expensive Tuesday night at Sotheby’s auction house in Manhattan, one of the 11 surviving copies of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book (and the first book of Scripture) printed in English in America, was sold for the highest price ever recorded for a print book in open sale.

The $14.2 million price (a bid of $12.5 million, plus fees) exceeded by more than a million dollars the $11.5 million paid for the previous record-holder, John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” in 2010.

The psalm book’s new owner is the private equity fund founder and philanthropist David Rubenstein, who called in his bid from Australia. According to Sotheby’s auctioneer David Redden, who gaveled down the sale in two and a half minutes of concerted bidding, Rubenstein, a well-known antiquities buyer and donator, intends to lend the ancient Puritan hymnal to libraries around the country, eventually putting it on long-term loan to one of them.

The buyer of the Bay Psalter (its full title is “The Whole Booke of Psalmes, Faithfully Translated into English Metre,”) wasn’t present in the hall, but the seller was.

The Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister and CEO of Old South Church in Boston, stood smiling next to the 4-inch-by-7-inch psalm book, which was nestled in velvet in a tall rectangular case.

“It’s fantastic,” she said. “We’re just delighted. This means the world to us in terms of the continuation and the building up of our ministries in Boston.”

Though the world record price was on the low end of estimates by Sotheby’s, which had suggested the psalter could go for $30 million, Taylor said, “In the rarefied world of some people this may not be much, but for a church, this is huge. It’s going to make all the difference in the world."

Full Story: ‘Crown jewel’ of American printing fetches $14.2 million in record auction 

Source: Religion News Service


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