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Leonardo da Vinci’s “Codex Leicester” and Four of the Most Expensive Books in the World

As eloquently stated by horror fiction writer Stephen King, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Readers can attest to the fact that this is, indeed, one of the many wonderful things about books — that this unassuming, common object is a doorway to escape reality and a feast for the imagination. But how much are you willing to spend to lay your hands on a piece of magic?

These days, a brand new hardcover novel ranges from $18 to $30, while trade and mass-market paperbacks are cheaper, coming at a price range of $8 to $15. But it still depends on a variety of factors such as the edition, size, materials, and others. If you don’t mind scratched, pre-loved books, you can grab a secondhand copy for as low as 50 cents at library sales or book fairs. But can you imagine shelling out millions of dollars for a single book? Yes, we know, it’s hard to imagine that pieces of paper bound together could cost so much money, but here we have four of the most expensive books in the world!

Codex Leicester by Leonardo da Vinci — $30.8 Million

The first on our list was written by one of the most brilliant and progressive figures in history — Leonardo da Vinci. This massive tome is a compilation of da Vinci’s scientific writings and observations on a variety of topics. For example, da Vinci expounds and discusses his take on the connection that exists between art and science and how creativity plays a role in the scientific process. So, who’s the lucky owner of this book? None other than Bill Gates himself! The Codex Leicester was sold to the billionaire during an auction for a whopping $30.8 million.

The Bay Psalm Book by Richard MatherJohn Eliot, and Thomas Weld$14 Million

Printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Bay Psalm Book made history by being the first printed book in British North America or what is now the United States. Essentially, it is a psalter translated to English and arranged in metrical form for singing. The Library of Congress houses one of the eleven remaining copies of this book. An American financier by the name of David Rubenstein bought a copy of this rare book for $14 million!

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer — $7.5 Million

As we all know, first-print and limited editions will cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. But what is probably English poet and author Geoffrey Chaucer‘s most beloved work is worth millions — the first edition, that is. This anthology of 24 stories was published in 1476, and only about a dozen known copies exist today. The last known purchase of this classic was sold to a private collector in London for £4.6 million or $7.5 million in 1998.

First Folio by William Shakespeare — $6.2 Million

Modern scholars call it the First Folio, but when it was first published in 1623, the book’s original title was a mouthful — Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. It’s a collection of William Shakespeare’s plays — 36 in total — and arguably one of the most influential books in the world. Back then, it was sold for £1, but if you had wanted your copy to be bound in leather, you’d have had to shell out an extra pound or two. In 2001, one of the 228 remaining copies was purchased by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for a jaw-dropping $6.2 million.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling — $3 Million

Whether you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series or not, you’ve most likely heard of the woman behind one of the most successful book series of all time. The story of J.K. Rowling’s success is well-known, and she’s one of the most influential authors these days. Aside from penning down the story of The Boy Who Lived, Rowling also published a few companion books like Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The latter is a compilation of five short stories, the most famous of which is the story of the Deathly Hallows. Only seven copies — all handwritten and drawn by Rowling herself — were initially released at first. In late 2007, one copy was auctioned off and purchased by for $3 million.

Pretty expensive books, aren’t they? Of course, there are numerous others that have been sold for much more money. Have you, by chance, read any of these?


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