Published November 27, 2013
The first book printed in what is now the United States sold for $14.2 million on Tuesday, setting a new auction record for any printed book in the world.
Boston’s famed Old South Church, whose congregation once included Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams, sold the Bay Psalm Book through Sotheby’s (BID) in New York.
The first-edition copy was purchased by David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity firm Carlyle Group (CG). He plans to loan it to libraries across the country.
“We are thrilled that this book, which is so important to our history and culture, is destined to be widely seen by Americans who can appreciate its singular significance,” said David Redden, head of Sotheby’s books department.
The book, one of only 11 surviving copies, is a translation of the Book of Psalms that was completed by Puritan ministers at Massachusetts Bay. The first edition was printed in Cambridge, Mass., in 1640.
The Bay Psalm Book’s selling price easily surpassed the previous auction record for a book. In 2010, a copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America was sold for $11.5 million in 2010.
It was the first Bay Psalm Book to appear at auction since 1947. That edition sold for $151,000, a record price at the time.
Old South Church, which still owns another copy of the book, said it plans to use the proceeds toward its charitable efforts in Boston. Its remaining copy is kept at the Boston Public Library.
The Harvard College Library, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and Yale University Library also house copies of the Bay Psalm Book.