For most lovers of literature, collecting books is the best pastime. Many people do find it hard to understand the criteria used in classifying rare books, more so, the rarest books on earth. To help explain this we hope to unearth the most valuable rare books in the world today. Though you can find many copies of these rare books online, the price of original copies could range from a measly six-figures to $30, 000,000. Thank you, Internet.
image credit: Rare books digest
10. Antiquities of the Russian State by Fyodor Solntsev
Image credit: Russian State Library
This book by Fyodor Solntev is a catalog of the old Russian architecture, suits of armor, outfits worn by nobles and religious icons amongst other significant Russian treasures. These paintings were then assembled and published in 1844. It was published as a complete seven-volume set and only 600 copies were made, making it one of the rarest books on earth. Now, this book, already made invaluable by the luxuriance of the work, was further bolstered by the rarity and in recent times, the increased spending power of the Russian aristocracy. A complete set of this book sold for $748,000 in 2006. Going by our analysis this book is the tenth of our most valuable rare books.
9. The Sarajevo Haggadah
Image credit: The library door
This illuminated manuscript is said to have produced in the 14th century. The Sarajevo Haggadah is an illustrated and handwritten book on the Passover Seder. The book also offers an explanation on the seder ritual. The Sarajevo Haggadah is recognized for its uniqueness and beauty – colorful depictions of bible scenes – making the book priceless. Its value is not helped by the fact that only one copy exists in the world today, at the Bosnia and Herzegovina National Museum. The book has an estimated value of about $700,000.
8. A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud
Image credit: Wikipedia
Eighth on our list of most valuable rare books is A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud. Whilst this book is basically a poem divided into six chapters, this book is Arthur Rimbaud’s chef-d’oeuvre. It tells of his tumultuous relationship with fellow poet Paul Verlaine. This book has been an influence to the Surrealist and Symbolist movements. In 2006, one of the first editions of this book was sold for $644,000. One can find copies of these rare books online.
7. Institutes of The Christian Religion by John Calvin
Image credit: Texas Tech University
This book was written by John Calvin in the early 16th century to proffer guidance as well as commentary for Biblical scripture readers. Though the first editions of the book were in Latin before being later printed in English, this book was a source of religious reform impacting on many religious denominations today. Whilst you can always get copies of these rare books online, a 1536 Latin, first edition copy of this book sold for $720,000 in 2006.
6. Geographia by Ptolemy
Image credit: Rochester
Also known as Cosmographia, this work by the Greek-Egyptian astronomer, mathematician, geographer, poet and astrologer, Claudius Ptolemy is an account of the world as he knew it at the time. The original work is said to come complete with illustrated maps and text. However, none of the original illustrated maps is known to have existed till this day. Whilst Renaissance editions of the book can fetch about $20,000, printed first editions have been known to fetch in upwards of $4,000,000. We can, therefore, only imagine what an original Ptolemy-era copy of such a book will cost.
5. Birds of America by John James Audubon
Image credit: Wikipedia
John James Audubon, a painter and naturalist, set out to accomplish the task of painting all of North America’s avian species. He successfully captured 435 different bird species in his “double-elephant sized” Birds of America. A full collection of his printed book today is valued at about $9,000,000.
4. Tamerlane and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Image credit: Wikipedia
One of the rarest books on Earth is a small collection of poems by one of America’s most foremost and widely renowned authors. Edgar Allan Poe’s book is on our list of most valuable rare books for two reasons. First, only 12 copies of this book are said to exist in the world today. Secondly, a copy recently sold for $600,000. Lastly, the book was not really one of Edgar Allan Poe’s greatest pieces – he was only 18 when he wrote it and the book was first printed. There are, however, copies of these rare books online.
3. Shakespeare’s First Folio by William Shakespeare
Image credit: Arts at MIT
William Shakespeare’s work has been one of the greatest influences in the world today. It is, therefore, expected that one of his works should feature as one of the rarest books on Earth. Only 750 copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio, which is a collection of 36 of the writer’s plays, were printed from 1622-1623. Though you can read free versions of these rare books online, a copy of this book was recently auctioned for approximately $4, 200,000 making it one of the most valuable rare books on earth.
2. Codex Leicester by Leonardo da Vinci
Image credit: Pintrest
This personal book of ideas for inventions by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most expensive books ever sold in the world. This book is handwritten by Leonardo da Vinci himself is a written translation of the author’s ideas and thought processes. Rightfully I guess, one of the most valuable rare books on earth is in the hands of one of the richest men in the world. Bill Gates bought this book for a whopping $30 million.
1. Gutenberg Bible
Image credit: UT Austin
Out of the 180 copies of this specially crafted Gutenberg’s edition of the Bible originally produced, only 48 copies are said to exist. Most of these are only partial copies. No one can actually estimate how much a perfect copy would be worth but a single leaf of the book fetched $74,000 at an auction in 2007.
These are the rarest books on Earth. Each of these priceless pieces of art, science or literature is a book collector’s pride. But thanks to the Internet we can read all the contents of most of these pricey books online.