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10 Most Expensive Books Ever Sold, Reaching Hundreds of Billions of Rupiah

As a window to the world, books are often read to increase knowledge or as entertainment. Books can also be historical documentation so the price can be very expensive if the book  is very rare and contains high-value historical information.

Reporting from TCK Publishing on Wednesday, March 8 2023, summarizes the 10 most expensive books ever sold in the world and looks at what makes them so valuable. Bill Gates is even willing to spend tens of billions of rupiah on a book.

1. Codex Leicester by Leonardo da Vinci

The most expensive book ever sold in the world is the Codex Leicester. The book  was purchased by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 1994 for 30.8 million US dollars or around Rp. 476 billion, which is now equivalent to a value of Rp. 840 billion.

What is special about this book? The Codex Leicester is basically a diary containing the science notes of scientist Leonardo da Vinci . Created in 1510, the book contains da Vinci’s drawings, theories, and observations about things like the movement of water, moonlight, and why fossils of sea creatures can be found in mountains.

After his purchase, Gates digitally scanned the Leicester Codex book, then released some of the images as screen savers and wallpapers for Windows 98 Plus.

2. The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon holds the current record for the most expensive religious text ever sold. In 2017, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints spent 35 million US dollars or currently IDR 576 billion to print a handwritten manuscript written in 1830. The text was used to print the earliest copy of the Book of Mormon.

3. The Gospels of Henry the Lion

Reading illustration, book

The Gospels of Henry the Lion held the title of the world’s most expensive book until Bill Gates purchased the Leicester Codex in 1994. This Gospel book was intended by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony , for the Marian altar in Brunswick Cathedral.

The book is considered a masterpiece of Roman book illumination and is believed to date from 1188. It was sold at auction in 1983 to a group of bidders that included the German federal government and other private donors for IDR 474 billion.

4. The Great Charter

Released in 1215, Magna Carta was a charter of royal rights signed by King John of England. It was the first document to officially state that the king and his government were not above the law. The aim was to prevent the monarchy from exploiting the power of the people, and to limit royal authority.

David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, paid IDR 415 billion to ensure that the 1297 version of the historic document would remain in the United States, whose government is heavily influenced by the principles contained in the charter.

5. Gospel of St. Cuthbert

Gospel of St. Cuthbert, the oldest preserved European book, was purchased in 2012 by the British Library in London for IDR 246 billion. The book has been buried with its author, St. Cuthbert, in 687. However, the book was rediscovered in 1104 when the body of St. Cuthbert was moved from the grave to the sanctuary.

The book was privately owned for several centuries until it was donated to the Jesuit community in Belgium, where it remained for 250 years. This book is available on the British Library’s online digital manuscripts database .

6. The Bay Psalm Book

The Bay Psalm Book was the first book printed in British colonial North America. The book was published in 1640, twenty years after the first pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock.

Eleven copies of this book are known to exist. In 2013, David Rubenstein bought it for IDR 246 billion. He often lent it to the library.

7. The Rothschild Prayerbook

The Rothschild Prayer Book is a 16th century Flemish manuscript covered in gold and filled with paintings and illustrations by talented Renaissance artists. The title of the book is taken from the name of the wealthy Rothschild family, who acquired the book sometime after 1868. It is unknown where the book had been for the previous 350 years.

The book was stolen by the Nazis in 1938. Hitler gave it to the National Library in Vienna in 1942, but when the war ended the library refused to return it to the Rothschild family. The book was finally returned to its rightful owner in 1999, and in 2014 it was sold by Australian billionaire and businessman, Kerry Stokes, for IDR 236 billion.

8. Birds of America by John James Audubon

Book illustration

Ornithologist and painter John James Audubon traveled throughout the United States to study native bird species and other wildlife. He then recorded his observations and created striking illustrations along the way.

His Book of Birds of America is a four-volume masterpiece with only 119 copies, most of which are owned by libraries and museums. The collection is revered by naturalists and scientists, with many of the species names Audubon created still used by researchers. In 2010, the highest bid for a copy of Birds of America was IDR 213 billion.

9. Alkitab Gutenberg

The Gutenberg Bible was the first complete book printed using movable type, with Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press in 1455. There are 49 Gutenberg Bibles known to exist, but only 21 are complete.

You can see this bible at the University of Texas at Austin. Because there were no Gutenberg Bibles in Japan in 1987, a Japanese bookseller, Maruzen Company, purchased a complete copy for IDR 191 billion.

10. The Canterbury Tales oleh Geoffrey Chaucer

In 1998, British billionaire and philanthropist John Paul Getty Jr. bought the very rare first edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in 1477 for IDR 185 billion. Only 12 copies of the first edition are known to exist.

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