For people new to the world of rare books, finding some of them could be a really tedious task, forget getting one on their shelf, considering the number of copies available that can be counted on fingers. So here is a compilation of the 7 rarest books of the world.
- The Gutenberg Bible
The Gutenberg Bible was the first book ever printed on a press, and to obtain one has become the white whale of book collecting (don’t harpoon one though; that is definitely frowned upon). The surviving 48 copies are worth roughly $7 million each, because of their rarity, cultural significance, and gorgeous lettering. They were made in 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg, a German blacksmith who became famous for inventing the first movable-type printing press.
- The Book Of Urizen
William Blake was one of history’s greatest weirdos. His contemporaries thought he was out of his mind: little did they know he would one day be hailed as one of the greatest poets of the English language.
The Book of Urizen is one of his most prophetic books, a mythic adventure about the perils of alienated reason. Only 8 complete copies of it survive, one of which was sold for $2.5 million in 1999.
- The Codex Of Leicester
Leonardo da Vinci’s brain overflowed with futuristic inventions, medical insights, and astronomical observations, and the Codex Leicester is where he put it all. The most famous of all his scientific journals, the Codex is 72 pages long and is jam-packed with this famous polymath’s assorted mental junk. Because it was da Vinci’s personal notebook, the Codex is completely one-of-a-kind. It was purchased by Bill Gates in 1994 for $30,802,500, becoming the most expensive manuscript ever sold.
- First Edition of Don Quixote
It would be quixotic to try to estimate the influence of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote on the Western literary canon (see what we did there? Word play high five!). The tale of the chivalry-obsessed hidalgo can be found in any bookstore, and new translations come out every 20 years or so. But a first edition of the book, from 1605, is not so easily hunted down. The last time an original Don Quixote changed hands was 1989, for $1.5 million.
- The Tales Of Beedle The Bard
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Albus Dumbledore bequeaths a first edition copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard to Hermione Granger. The book is described as a popular collection of folktales about wizards and witches, and it becomes instrumental to the plot of the final Potter adventure. As a thank you gift to the people most involved in her success, Rowling decided to write and illustrate this book in real life. She produced 7 handmade copies bound with Moroccan leather and decked out in silver and jewels, calling them the “Moonstone editions.” 6 copies went to the “key people” who helped her on her way, while she sold the 7th for $3.98 million, as a benefit for the Children’s Voice charity.
- Shakespeare’s First Folio
When Shakespeare’s work was collected and published for the first time in 1623, it was worth about two dollars. Today, an original copy of his first folio is worth $6 million. About 750 copies of the folio were printed in the first run, and around 228 of them survive. We already mentioned that Bill Gates got his hands on a Gutenberg Bible, so it’s interesting to note that the most recent sale of Shakespeare’s first folio was to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
- The United States Declaration of Independence
You can read the Declaration of Independence in full anytime you want by Googling it. But to get a copy of the first printing of the Declaration, called the “Dunlop broadside” is a trickier matter. About 200 copies were printed on July 4th, 1776 as luminaries such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin impatiently looked on. Only 26 copies survive to this day. Dunlop broadside’s market value is about $9 million — talk about a lucky purchase.
Well amazed? But this isn’t the end of such jewels. There are quite a few more such treasures that could be found in reputed museums and libraries around the world. So if ever you go on a world tour don’t forget to take a glance at these rare manuscripts. Click here to find out the rarest books near you.