First book published in US set to make $30m at Sotheby's

What is believed to be the first book ever published in the United States - the Bay Psalm Book - is set to appear at Sotheby's on November 26.

Bay Psalm Book auction First Published US Sothebys
The Bay Psalm Book was may well surpass the record for any book at auction

The tiny book holds a staggering estimate of $30m, which matches the current world record for a book at auction, which is held by the Codex Leicester, a 72-page handwritten manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci.

The most valuable printed book at auction is a copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America, which sold for $11.2m at Sotheby's in 2010.

Bay Psalm Book auction first most valuable US published
The title page of the 1640 book, which was intended as a faithful translation of the Hebrew psalms into English

There are 11 copies of the 1640 hymnal, entitled the Bay Psalm Book, that are known to have survived, with each in varying degrees of completeness. The example at auction has been consigned by the Boston Old South Church, which has decided to part with one of its two copies to raise funds for grants and ministries.

The church previously owned five copies of the remarkable work, but has since donated them to the Library of Congress, Brown University and Yale University.

The intended purpose of the hymnal was to provide an accurate translation of the original Hebrew psalms into English, with puritans believing that paraphrased psalms would hamper their salvation. Around 1,700 copies were printed in total, on a press that was delivered from London.

However, the claim that the book is the earliest example printed in the US is disputed by historians, with some stating that an almanac may have been printed just before the Bay Psalm Book. However, the almanac is said to be more akin to a pamphlet than a book.

The last example of the book to appear at auction brought $151,000 in 1947.

Paul Fraser Collectibles will bring you the results of this sale later in the year - sign up to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you don't miss out. We also have an extraordinary collection of rare manuscripts for sale, including this 1840 copy of the Declaration of Independence.  

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