Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


'World's most expensive book' has collectors chirping

An rare intact copy of 'The Birds of America' by John James Audubon has come up for auction. 

By Daisy Alioto / January 9, 2012

Copies of ‘The Birds of America’ have historically been dismantled because the aqua-tinted plates themselves are so valuable.

Enlarge

A first edition of John James Audubon’s book 'The Birds of America' certainly costs more than the average nest egg. The last time another copy of this rare volume was sold in 2010, bids soared to $11.5 million – making it the world’s most expensive book.

Skip to next paragraph

"The Birds of America" was published in the early 1800s as a serial. A complete edition contains 435 color illustrations.

Copies of ‘The Birds of America’ have historically been dismantled because the aqua-tinted plates themselves are so valuable. Now, another full copy has come up for auction through Christie's, and has the potential to usurp the “world’s most expensive book” roost.

20 nonfiction titles to watch for in 2012
 
The full 3'-by-2' tome can draw a creak from even the sturdiest of coffee tables – not that any rare book collector would be so bold as to leave it lying around, when there are only 120 copies of the book in existence.
 
The size of the book was dictated by Audubon who insisted on dimensions that would enable life-size renderings of the hundreds of birds he depicted. As rare book dealer Rick Gekoski told the Guardian, “…the flamingo and trumpeter swan tilt their necks graciously inward and arrange themselves with some care.”
 
The book will be auctioned by Christie's in New York on Jan. 20.

Daisy Alioto is a Monitor contributor.

Join the Monitor's book discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

'Downton Abbey': 10 highlights from the new book

Permissions

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Editors' picks:

What are you reading?

Let me know about a good book you've read recently, or about the book that's currently on your bedside table. Why did you pick it up? Are you enjoying it?

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!