This Book Of Psalms Is One Of The Most Expensive Books In The World

The publication known as the Bay Psalm Book is an important title in American history, recognized as the first book printed in the British colonies that eventually became the United States of America. Per the World Digital Library, Reverend Jesse Glover imported a printing press into Massachusetts in 1638, 18 years after the Mayflower sailed from England and deposited colonists in Plymouth. Printer Stephen Daye sailed to Massachusetts with the press and set up a printing office in Cambridge. One year later, John Eliot, Thomas Welde, and Richard Mather began translating the Bible's Book of Psalms from Hebrew to English; their translation was intended for use in colonial churches. The three men were assisted by approximately 30 other ministers, and the result was published in 1640 with the title "The Whole Book of Psalmes Faithfully Translated Into English Metre." 

Better known as the Bay Psalm Book, it remained in use for over 100 years and was reprinted many times. Today, just 11 known copies out of the original 1,700 of the first 1640 edition remain. In May of 1966, Mrs. Adrian Van Sinderen of Washington, Connecticut donated what was then the last private copy of the Bay Psalm Book to the Library of Congress. All copies remained housed within institutional collections until 2013. As reported by The New York Times, Boston's Old South Church decided that year to put one of their two copies up for auction in order to raise money for ministries and repairs to the church's building, which dates back to 1875. 

The Bay Psalm Book holds two impressive records

Famous auction house Sotheby's handled the sale of the rare first edition of the Bay Psalm Book. In a video still available on YouTube, Director of Special Projects David Redden called the book's publication "in some respects a revolutionary act by the Puritans," noting that they hadn't liked the version of Psalms presented to them by the Church of England and therefore created their own version. "From the point of view of our world here in America, it is the beginning of our Western civilization," he said. The New York Times reported that the Old South Church's two copies originated with Minister Thomas Prince, who was also a book collector with a robust library he called his New-England-Library. He stored several of his tomes within the nooks and crannies of the Old South Church, and it sent his copies of the Bay Psalms Books to the Boston Public Library in 1866 for safekeeping, where one copy still remains. 

Sotheby's estimated that the book would sell for between $15 million and $30 million dollars, and although the book didn't go for quite that much, it did set a record for the most expensive book ever sold at auction. David M. Rubenstein of the Washington, D.C. investment firm the Carlyle Group won with his bid of $14,165,000. Rubenstein collects historical documents and bought a copy of the Magna Carta for $21 million in 2007. He announced his plans to loan the book to libraries across the United States for display, eventually arranging a long-term loan to one rather than keeping it in his own home.