When dedicated bibliophiles want to purchase a book, they generally turn to AbeBooks rather than Amazon Marketplace or eBay. AbeBooks was founded in Victoria, British Columbia, as the Advanced Book Exchange in 1995 by four bibliophiles. The company was acquired by Amazon in 2008. The site lists more than 140 million books from thousands of independent booksellers, many former brick-and-mortar establishments, from more than 50 countries.
Each year, AbeBooks publishes the list of the most expensive rare books sold on the site, providing a glimpse into what books have come onto the market and what bibliophiles are willing to pay for their Holy Grails. Despite how high these numbers are, they pale in comparison to the price that bibliophiles pay for exceptionally rare and valuable books that are only sold at auction or through private broker sales.
(1) I Quattro Libri dell Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture, 1570) by Andrea Palladio, $57,750
This influential first edition set of four books about architecture was written by Andrea di Pietro (nicknamed Palladio) who worked extensively in Venice. His style, known as Palladian architecture, was influenced by the classical architecture from ancient Greek and Roman traditions. Palladian architecture is characterized by its grand appearance and use of classical elements, specifically, symmetry, harmony, balance, tall columns (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian), and intricate detail.
(2) Cook’s Voyages (1773-1784) by John Hawkesworth, $50,000
This is a rare first edition set (nine volumes) of the official accounts of British explorer Captain James Cook’s three voyages in the Pacific Ocean published in 1773, 1777, and 1784. During the 18th century, these books were bestsellers because Europeans were curious about life in distant lands: New Zealand, Australia, and the Hawaiian Islands.
(3) How to Trade Stocks (1940) by Jesse Livermore, $40,000
A first edition, signed by the author, published by Duell, Sloan & Pearce. In the 1920s, Livermore was one of the great stock traders, worth millions, who traded with his own money. His formula for monitoring trends is still used today — more than 80 years later.
(4) Cantiques des Cantiques (1931) by Solomon, $25,000
This is a rare French limited edition (1 of 8) of The Canticle of Canticles (or Song of Songs), an erotic poem, illustrated by British artist Eric Gill. The Song of Songs, which signifies the “most excellent, best song,” is one of three books of Solomon, contained in the Hebrew, the Greek, and the Christian Canon of the Scriptures. The literal subject of the poem is love and sexual longing between a woman and a man. Because it explicitly says little or nothing about the relationship of God and man, Christians commentators turn to allegory to treat the love that the poem celebrates as an analogy for the love between God and Church.
(5) The Time Machine (1895) by H. G. Wells – $30,500
This is a first edition of Wells’ first novel published by Henry Holt. The author’s signature appears below his misspelled name on the title page (“H.S. Wells”). Wells not only popularized the concept of time travel in a machine, and coined the term “time machine.” The novel is considered one of the seminal works of science-fiction literature that inspired countless stories about time travel.
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For further reading: http://www.abebooks.com/books/rarebooks/most-expensive-sales-2022
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