5 Most Expensive First Edition Books

Ebooks and digital reading have marked a revolution in the world of books but still, they cannot beat the smell and feel of paper. Especially that of a collectible first edition.

What is a First Edition?

First edition books are the first copies to be printed. In general, a first edition is often more expensive because it is older and rarer compared to other editions available.

Literature lovers and avid readers often seek out first editions of books they love because it is the original, and originals are always the best.

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5. First Folio by William Shakespeare, $6,166,000

(Photo: Wiki Commons)

It would be impossible to talk about the most expensive first edition books and not include the name of the greatest dramatist of English Literature, William Shakespeare.

In 2001, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft bought the First Folio for $6,166,000 in New York. 

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4. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, $7.5 million

(Photo: aleteia.org)

The Canterbury Tales is the first-ever surviving work of English, making it a must-read for every literature historian.

The first edition of the book was sold in London for $7.5 million in 1998. It was originally published in 1477 and is considered to be the first-ever prose of the English Language by the father of English Literature, Geoffrey Chaucer.

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3. Birds of America by James Audubon, $11.5 million

(Photo: Rawpixel)

The Birds of America is a book containing illustrations of a wide variety of birds found in the United States by naturalist and painter John James Audubon.

It is a portal into the natural world of the United States printed in series from 1827 to 1838.

This book has only 119 known copies in the world, one of which was auctioned in 2000 for $8,802,500. In 2011 another complete copy was sold for $11.5 million in London.

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2. The Gospel of Henry the Lion by Order of Saint Benedict, $11.7 million

The Gospel of Henry the Lion is a Romanesque illuminated manuscript, and a masterpiece of the 12th century.

The 266-page Gospel includes 50 full-page illustrations. The gospel book was originally commissioned by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony to reside at the altar of the Virgin Mary at Brunswick Cathedral.

The German government purchased it in 1983 for $11.7 million, making it the second most expensive first edition in the world.

1. The Codex Leicester by Leonardo da Vinci, $30,800,000

The Codex Leicester is the most famous 14-page book by the Italian polymath of the High Renaissance.

Leonardo da Vinci is considered to be one of the most talented individuals ever to have lived on this planet and The Codex Leicester is one of his many masterpieces.

The first edition of this book is filled with handwritten musings and theories of da Vinci. Topics range from fossils to the movement of water, and speculations on how the moon glows.

The book currently resides with Bill Gates who purchased it at auction for $30,800,000.