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World’s most expensive book sells for £7.3 million at auction


Back in September, we reported that a book billed as the world’s most expensive was to go on sale at auction.

On Tuesday, the book – John James Audubon’s Birds of America – sold for an incredible £7.3 million at auction in London, breaking the world record to become the most expensive book ever sold.

The rare book is considered a 19th-century masterpiece and contains 435 life-sized hand-coloured illustrations. It is seen as a key volume on US natural history.

The book was sold to an anonymous collector bidding by telephone, according to auction house Sotheby’s in London.

Each individual picture contained in the book is apparently so valuable there have been some fears the volume could be broken up and sold as 435 separate works of art.

However, collectors hold Audubon’s work in such high esteem that they would not even dream of ripping a perfect copy of the book apart.

“Audubon’s Birds holds a special place in the rare book market for several reasons,” said Heather O’Donnell, a specialist with Bauman Rare Books in New York.

“The book is a major original contribution to the study of natural history in the New World.

“It’s also one of the most visually stunning books in the history of print: The scale of the images, the originality of each composition, the brilliance of the hand-colouring.”

The Birds of America plates were printed in black and white and later hand-coloured. The book measures more than 3ft by 2ft (90cm by 60cm) in order to allow space for the life-size bird paintings.

Lana Galea View Comments

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  • Godfrey

    A recent book bout libraries and books title “Library World Records” the 2nd edition lists over 50 most expensive books in the world. Very entertaining reading. And it does mention “Birds of America” when it was the 4th most expensive book back then before 2008.

    Check the book out in your local public library!!

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