6 of the Most Expensive (Non-Religious) Books Ever Sold

Think you’re paying too much for the latest novel in your favourite series? Spare a thought for the passionate collectors who have shelled out big bucks for these expensive books in exclusive antique auctions! Not counting bibles and other religious texts, several books and documents have achieved amazing record priced at auction. Here’s a list of some of the most expensive books ever sold.

1. Codex Leicester – Leonardo da Vinci – ~1500s – $30.8m – 1994, NYC
This notebook is an original from da Vinci, a collection of his scientific writings comprised of just 18 pages.

2. Magna Carta – sealed under oath by King John – 1297 – $21.3m – 2007, NYC
There are only four surviving original iterations of this document, which historically limited the powers of the English king and protected the rights of his subjects. The copy in question is now owned by the Australian Government, displayed at Parliament House in Canberra.

3. The Birds of America – John James Audubon – 1827-1838 – Various

A copy of John James Audubon’s early 19th century illustrated book on the native birds of America was sold less than four years ago for a record $11.5m. Ten years before that, another copy (only one of 119 known) sold for $8.8m. Two other copies have been sold for several million each.

4. Geographia Cosmographia – Claudius Ptolemy – 1477 – $4m – 2006, London
The Geographia Cosmographia was the world’s very first printed atlas, and the first to make use of engraved illustrations, which remained popular for years to come. It features a beautiful embossed leather cover and, like many antique and ancient books, needs to be stored and handled under strict archival conditions.

5. The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K. Rowling – unknown date – $3.98m – 2007, London

The Tales of Beedle the Bard was a fictional book-within-a-book in the Harry Potter series, and played a pivotal role in the final two books. J.K. Rowling produced seven copies, but only one was ever offered for sale, in a charity auction. It was estimated to fetch £50,000 pounds, but achieved a much higher hammer price in the end. The buyer was Amazon.com – what they plan to do with it remains a mystery.

6. Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes – 1605-1615 – $1.5m – 1989

A first edition copy of Don Quixote, the famous Spanish novel, sold for what was (at the time) a record high price for a fiction book, in 1989.

Magna Carta
Magna Carta