Monday, June 19, 2006

From Writer to Reader: The Ten Most Expensive Books Ever Sold on Advanced Book Exchange (ABE)

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. $65,000. Published in 1937, this first edition, first printing is in its original dust jacket. Only 1,500 copies of the first edition were printed, and they were sold out by mid-December. Purchased by a buyer in Arizona from a New York bookseller.

Milton, John. Areopagitica. $65,000. Published in 1644, this pamphlet by the author of the epic poem Paradise Lost defended the freedom of the press as the British government suppressed their opponent’s publications. Purchase by a UK buyer from an American bookseller.
More, Sir Thomas. Utopia. $60,000. More became a Catholic martyr when Henry VIII beheaded him. This 1518 fourth edition outlines his ideal state, and pleads for religious tolerance and universal education. Purchased by a UK buyer from an American bookseller.

Donne, John. Poems. $60,000. Little written by Donne appeared in print in his lifetime but hundreds of manuscript copies were circulated by hand. This 1633 edition was the first collection of his poems. Purchased by a buyer in Pakistan from an American bookseller.

Landmann Lt.-Col. George Thomas. Historical, Military, and Picturesque Observations on Portugal. $57,000. This 1818 first edition is described as ‘the most beautiful illustrated English book on Portugal of the period.’ Landmann fought in the Peninsular War, and his book details sieges and battles. Purchased by a buyer in Hong Kong from an American bookseller.

Koran. $46,061. This handwritten version of the Koran was published in the Arabic year of 1152 (1731 in the Western world). Purchased by a buyer in Pakistan from a bookseller in Germany.

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. $38,000. In 1847, Congress asked Schoolcraft to document the history, condition and future of the aboriginal inhabitants of the U.S. It is one of the most important works about the American Indian. Purchased by a buyer in California from a bookseller in Philadelphia.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. $36,059. The 1997 first edition of Rowling’s debut book are hard to find. There was a hardcover print run of only 500. Most copies are now owned by collectors. This one is in mint condition and unread. Purchased by a buyer in California from a bookseller in France.

Traite a’anatomie et de physiologie, avec des plans. $27,582. A very rare medical handbook, it was published in 1786 in Paris and is bound in full leather. Purchased by a buyer in Pennsylvania from a bookseller in Germany.

Orwell, George. 1984. $26,500. Orwell was hospitalized with turberculosis just after the book’s publication. He never left the hospital alive, so signed copies are very scarce. Some were given to hospital staff – this one is inscribed ‘For Elly with regards – Geo. Orwell.’ Purchased by a UK buyer from an American bookseller.”


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