US psalm book from 1640 breaks world record

The Bay Psalm Book sold for a world-record price yesterday. Picture: Getty
The Bay Psalm Book sold for a world-record price yesterday. Picture: Getty
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A BOOK of psalms from the seventeenth century has been sold for just over £8.75 million, setting a record for most expensive printed book ever sold at auction.

The Bay Psalm Book, which dates to 1640 and is thought to be the first book printed in what is now the USA, was sold off at Sotheby’s in New York yesterday.

It was one of two copies owned by the Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts. Reverend Nancy Taylor of the Church described the money raised as “life-changing”.

The Psalm Book was intended as a faithful translation into English of the original Hebrew psalms - puritans believed selected paraphrases would compromise their salvation. The 1,700 copies were printed on a press shipped from London.

Mark Dimunation, the chief of rare books and special collections at the Library of Congress, said of the Bay Psalm Book: “American poetry, American spirituality and the printed page all kind of combine and find themselves located in a single volume.”

The book failed to break the overall auction price record for a book, held by Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Hammer notebook of scientific writings which sold for £19 million in 1994.