4) The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer — $7.5 million
Just 12 copies of the 1477 century William Caxton first edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are known to exist.
Regarded as one of the most famous works in early English literature, a copy of the book far exceeded its estimate of $1.17 million to sell for a World Record price of $7.5 million at Christie’s in London in 1998.
3) Birds of America - James Audubon — $11.5 million
The world’s most expensive printed book ever sold at auction is John James Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’, a study of birds featuring a series of exquisite hand-coloured plates created over the course of 12 years between 1827 and 1838.
Just 119 copies of the four-volume work are known to exist, and those that have appeared at auction have consistently set record prices. In 2000 an example was sold at Christie’s for $8.8 million, and in 2010 another achieved a price of $11.54 million.
2) The Gospels of Henry the Lion - Order of Saint Benedict — $11.7 million
This 12th century illustrated manuscript features the text of the four gospels, and was commissioned by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony. Created by Benedictine monks from the Helmarshausen Abbey, the 266-page work featured gold leaf and 50 full-panel illustrations.
In 1983 the book was sold at auction by Christie’s for approximately $11.7 million, a World record price for any work of art at the time. It was purchased by the German government, and is currently housed at the Herzog August Library.
1) The Codex Leicester - Leonardo da Vinci — $30.8 million
This 72-page handwritten notebook features the work of the Italian renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci, widely regarded as one of the finest minds in human history.
Dating from the early 16th century, the journal includes da Vinci’s theories on astronomy, the properties of water, rocks, fossils, air and celestial light. Formerly owned by the Early of Leicester Thomas Coke (from whom it takes its name), the codex was later bought by art collector Armand Hammer before being purchased at auction by Microsoft founder Bill gates in 1994.
Gates paid a World record price of $30.8 million, and the Codex is now regularly exhibited in cities around the world.
For further information about rare books and manuscripts, visit http://en.wikicollecting.org/