The World’s Most Expensive Book To Be Auctioned

An edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which fetched a world record $8.8 million (£5.7m) a decade ago, is to go up for auction alongside Shakespeare’s First Folio and private letters written by Queen Elizabeth I.

The last copy of the book auctioned fetched over $8m 10 years ago

The rare and valuable lots are among a collection of books, manuscripts and letters to be sold from the collection of Lord Hesketh, a collector who died 55 years ago, Sotheby’s will announce today.

A well-preserved copy of Audubon’s book, which is bound in a huge folio accommodating life-size paintings of American bird life, is valued at between £4 million and £6 million.

Also up for sale are a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, published in 1623 and worth an estimated £1 million to £1.5 million, and a series of letters written by Elizabeth I to Ralph Sadler, who became jailer to her half-sister, Mary Queen of Scots.

David Goldthorpe, of Sotheby’s, told The Guardian: “To have all these items in one sale is remarkable; it’s certainly never happened in my time, 15 years, and people who’ve been here longer can’t recall it.”

Frederick Fermor-Hesketh, 2nd Baron Hesketh, was from a family of collectors who liked to buy the rarest and most expensive items available across a variety of fields.

His copy of Birds of America is one of only 119 known copies, of which 108 belong to museums, libraries and universities.

Aubudon travelled across America to shoot the birds before hanging them with wire so that he could paint them on the enormous folio.

The Shakespeare folio, which includes 36 of his plays, is one of only 219 known to still exist, few of which are privately owned and most of which are in America.

Audubon sold the book on a subscription basis to wealthy collectors. The copy for sale was No. 11, bought by paleontologist Henry Witham.

The sale, on December 7, is expected to raise a total of £8 million to £10 million.

The December sale also includes medieval illustrated manuscripts, work by William Caxton, England’s first printer, and letters written by Queen Elizabeth I and her ministers about the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots. [via The Star]

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