Monday, July 19, 2010

Expensive Books

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. - Gilbert Highet

I often hear, “I’d love to buy your book, but I simply can’t afford to spend the money now.” I certainly understand. I'm aware that many people have other priorities and commitments. Though I would like to, I know I can’t spend every cent on books either. That doesn’t, however, keep me from wondering how much it might cost to stock my dream library with diverse and interesting books—if money was not a consideration.

Pretending for a few minutes that I hit the lottery big time, I randomly selected a few titles that I’d like to see displayed on my personal bookshelves. My tab for seven selections is roughly $55 million. I’m glad I didn’t accidently hit any “Buy Now” buttons in the process of my search.

The Birds Of America – Published in the 1800s, this book contains descriptions and illustrations by John James Audubon. In 2000 a copy was bought by Sheikh Saud of Qatar for $8.8 million.

The Codex Leicester – This 72-page handwritten book by Leonardo Da Vinci dates back to the early 1500s. Bill Gates bought it in 1994 for a mere $30.8 million.

The First Folio – A 900-page book of Shakespeare’s plays was published seven years after his death. It sold at Christie’s in New York in 2001 for $6.16 million. According to Wikipedia, it originally sold for one Pound Sterling which is equivalent of about $220.00 today. Therefore, it was never an inexpensive book.

The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century collection of stories was sold in London in 1998 for $11 million.

Geographia – Described as the first atlas, this is Ptolemy's compilation of cartography as it was known during the days of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century. In 2006, one of the two known copies sold at auction for $3.9 million.

Tamerlane and Other Poems – This was the first book written by Edgar Allan Poe (supposedly at the age of 14), but it was published anonymously listing the author only as “a Bostonian.” It sold in 2009 for $662,500.

Where the Wild Things Are – The first edition (1963) of this book by Maurice Sendak is estimated to be worth over $10,000 if it’s in excellent condition with the original dust jacket, according to

Since the event of eBooks and POD publishing, I’m wondering if books by any of today’s authors will ever be worth a massive amount of money. What do you think?

A quick note for those who are unable or unwilling to spend big bucks for books, I’d like to mention that Amazon (last time I checked) was offering The Ride for only $15.75 (a savings of $11.24)! If this is the opportunity you've been waiting on in order to own your very own copy, click here to buy now.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you again next Monday.

Tags: Gilbert Highet, Codex Leicester, Audubon, First Folio, Canterbury Tales, Tamerlane, Where the Wild Things Are, expensive books, the Ride,


A. K. said...

Have a great week ahead..

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Your book is definitely a bargain! I've purchased it. :)

Wish I had da Vinci's book, too...don't suppose it's lurking in my attic anywhere?

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Someone sure has expensive tastes!

Mason Canyon said...

WOW and here I was thinking about a million to spend on my dream library. Hadn't thought of books like this. They would be wonderful to have.

Thoughts in Progress

Joanne said...

Wow, what an amazing post, the value of all those words! Sometimes I've found beautiful hardcover books for a great price at our library book sale. I collect old, illustrated novels, and picked up Rebecca, Gone With The Wind and 2 different Jane Eyres, all illustrated and all for a song.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Interesting books. What an impressive library you would have.

Karen Walker said...

I already own and have read and liked your book, Miss Jane. I loved hearing about these other books, though. Had no idea. Would love to at least see these books somehow.

Carol Kilgore said...

Wow! Expensive taste you've got there, Jane :)

Darcia Helle said...

Jane, your dream library would require an armed guard at the door, a dedicated room, fancy glass-encased shelves, and climate control. You'd better add another $20 million or so to your budget!

The digital age has definitely altered the way people read. However, it might actually make books more valuable in the future. Like music, with the limited release vinyl, we could see a day when there will be limited release hardcovers that will be collector's items.

KarenG said...

I think it's funny how people say they don't have money for a book yet will will shell out $50 for a dinner out without blinking an eye. The dinner's over in an hour, the book gives lasting pleasure. I just don't get it.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I drool at the thought of owning a first folio. It's not just the writing, but the history too. To own a book that is that old would be tremendous.

The Old Silly said...

Thanks for the great list. And yes, Amazon often has some great deals, hmm?

Monti said...

Interesting. The Leonardo book would intrigue me...he was so far ahead of his time!


Anonymous said...

Wow! Maybe the original signed copies of Breakthrough will be worth something like this some day. There are only about 400 in circulation. Hey, you have to have vision.

Stephen Tremp

Hart Johnson said...

It's so true. I get a lot of books from the library... we just don't have a ton of extra resources, and I reread so rarely, but I have a long list of books I'd buy if I won the lottery, and I would LOVE to have first editions of some of those favorites. I found an early Green Eggs & Ham a couple years back and I think it was $140. I was so sad. I would LOVE an early Dr. Suess...

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Thanks, A.K, hope you have a good week too.

Thank you, Elizabeth! I appreciate your support, encouragement, and the helpful advice on your blog.

If I thought there was a possibility of Leonardo’s book turning up, I’d actually clean out the attic and my closet.

I dream big, Rayna and Mason!

Joanne, I bet those novels are wonderful. It’s a terrific idea and inspires me to attend our next library sale.

Suanne, I think it would be so much fun to be a rare book collector. That reminds me I must go out and buy another lottery ticket.

Karen, thank you for your support, too. I think pages from Leonardo’s book and probably a few others do go on display several times a year. I’ll have to check into it to be sure, however.

Carol, I’ve adjusted to life with expensive tastes and a dime store pocketbook!)

Darcia, I had not thought that through. When I win that jackpot, it had better be a big one! You have a good point about limited release hard covers – I’ll definitely save all the signed ones I own.

Karen, I guess we all have priorities of what it takes to make us happy. I like to eat out, but I like books more.

I agree, Elspeth.

Thanks, The Old Silly.

Monti, Maybe when someone perfects the time machine, we’ll have the opportunity to meet him for lunch! Wouldn’t that be fun.

It’s definitely possible, Stephen. Now I’m wishing I would have bought the original of yor book instead of waiting for the leaner, greener, meaner, rerelease!

Hart, I probably got rid of a fortune when I got rid of my daughter’s books during a down-sizing move. She had a set of Dr. Seuss books. I tried to find the same set for my Grandson. I finally found them on eBay but couldn’t afford them! Sigh.

arlee bird said...

Those are books you're not gonna be sprawled on the couch with while you eat snacks.

Tossing It Out

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

You are right, Arlee - no reading them in the bathtub, either!)

Patricia Stoltey said...

My favorite answer to folks who say they can't buy my book because it costs too much is: "Would you please request that your library order the book? That would help a lot."

A library sale is still a sale, and you've instantly increased the number of people who may see your book and remember your name.

Bob Sanchez said...

And to think I can download Canterbury Tales for free...

Helen Ginger said...

Jane, any one of these books would entice me, if I had the money, more than the books I posted about today! What a library those books would make.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jane,

What a wonderful idea- using lottery winnings to stock a library. I agree with all of your selections.
I'm going to write this down for the off chance that I should ever win the lotto. :D cheers~

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Patricia, I like your response so much I plan to steal and use it!

Bob, it must be the antique paper that adds to the price!)

Helen, I saw those expensive books at your blog yesterday. Though I’d probably never buy one, I’d certainly like to see one to see what people are getting for their money.

Nancy, the trouble with using lottery winnings is that troublesome little problem of actually winning the lottery!

DazyDayWriter said...

Of all the books mentioned, Jane, "The Ride" is clearly the book of choice! Have a wonderful weekend.
--Daisy (always hard at work in !!)

Glynis said...

A great selection. I would buy all of Florence Nightingale's books. :)

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world