1 – The Book of Mormon, 1830 – $35 million
This book was sold at a private sale in September 2017.
It holds the record for the most expensive antiquarian book ever sold, the printer’s original draft of the Book of Mormon, handwritten from the dictation of Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith.
This book is considered one of the central texts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It is believed to be from Smith’s translation of text inscribed on gold tablets discovered near his home in Palmyra, New York, in the 1820s.
This draft was then sent to the local printer, EB Grandin, for typesetting before the hand-made manuscript was handed over to a member of the growing Mormon Church for safekeeping.
It remained in the possession of the church until it was sold in 1903; the 2017 purchase therefore marks the manuscript’s proper return to the LDS archives.
2 – The Leicester Codex, 1506 – $30.8 million
The second most expensive antiquarian book ever sold is the Codex Leicester, a 72-page text that Bill Gates obtained in November 1994. The author of this text explains its high price since it is Leonardo da Vinci .
With over 300 illustrations and diary-like entries that convey the pioneering Renaissance figure’s ruminations on science, the book is one of approximately 20 such collections produced by the artist prodigy.
3 – Magna Carta, 13th Century – $21.321 million
This ancient manuscript is undoubtedly one of the most expensive ever sold. Written in the 13th century, the Magna Carta was a royal charter drawn up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, primarily for the purpose of regulating the actions of the King of England and establishing a sense of common law among his people.
This particular edition of the Magna Carta, remarkably well preserved and bearing the seal of the King of England, is therefore a wonderful piece of history.
4 – Northumberland Bestiary, 1260 – $20 million
The Northumberland Bestiary is both one of the most famous and mysterious texts.
Produced in the 13th century in an English scriptorium, this gothic-era book is a fantastic compendium, which contains descriptions and discussions of real and mythical beasts, accompanied by more than a hundred medieval drawings.
The mystery and nourishes by the non-identification of the author, just like its selling price. After first appearing at an auction at Sotheby’s in 1990, the Northumberland Bestiary was purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2007 for an undisclosed sum.
Most estimates suggest it is around $20 million.
5 – The Rothschild Prayer Book, 1510 – $13 million
Considered one of the most expensive antiquarian books in the world, this 16th-century illuminated manuscript was made in the region of Flanders and was originally intended to be dedicated to the Dutch royal court.
Gerard David, a renowned master painter of the time, contributed the incredible amount of illustrations to this Renaissance book. Like the previous books, this ancient book takes its name from the famous Rothschild family.
It was indeed documented as part of Anselm von Rothschild’s collection as early as the end of the 19th century and was passed down between his heirs before appearing at Christie’s in 2014.