December 2, 2013

Bay Psalm Book sells for $14.2 million


The Bay Psalm Book sold for millions last week at Sotheby's.

The Bay Psalm Book sold for millions last week at Sotheby’s.

Back in April, we told you about an extremely rare book going up for auction from Sotheby’s, expected to sell for millions. The auction for the copy of The Whole Booke of Psalmes that’s become known as the Bay Psalm Book finally happened last week, and billionaire David M. Rubenstein picked up the tome for $14.2 million.

The Bay Psalm Book is the first book to be published in the US, one of only eleven surviving copies of the volume printed in Cambridge, MA. While the auction didn’t reach the heights that some predicted — Sotheby’s vice chairman David Redden estimated that it would go for $15-30 million — the Bay Psalm Book is now the most expensive book in the world.

Thomas Heath writes for the Washington Post that Rubenstein (co-founder of the Carlyle Group and ranked 209th on Forbes’s list of wealthiest Americans) phoned in his bid from Australia, and that he plans to put the book on revolving loan to libraries across the US. “I thought it was important to keep this historic American book in the country,” he explained,  “and I also thought I could expose more Americans to its significance — and the importance of books to our country — by having it displayed throughout the country at libraries that might not otherwise have a chance to display something quite so old and rare.”

Heath describes the purchase as an example of Rubenstein’s “patriotic philanthropy,” which has included multi-million donations to the National Zoo, and for repairs to the Washington Monument, Mount Vernon, and Monticello, as well as a purchase of an edition of the Magna Carta, currently on loan to the National Archives.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.