Books are treasures of knowledge, wisdom and beauty. They can transport us to different worlds, inspire us to create and challenge us to think. Some books are so rare and valuable that they are considered priceless. Here are the top 6 rarest books in the world, according to various sources.
10. The Voynich Manuscript
This is a mysterious handwritten book that has baffled scholars and cryptographers for centuries. It was written in an unknown script and language, possibly in the 15th or 16th century, by an unknown author. The book contains 240 pages of text and illustrations, covering topics such as botany, astronomy, biology, cosmology, and medicine. The book has been studied by many experts, but no one has been able to decipher its meaning or purpose. Some have suggested that it is a hoax, a code, a cipher, or a lost language. The book is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish book dealer who acquired it in 1912. It is now owned by Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Its value is unknown, but it is priceless for its mystery.
9. Fyodor Solntsev’s ‘Antiquities of the Russian State’
This is a monumental work of art and history by the Russian painter and archaeologist Fyodor Solntsev (1801-1892). It consists of 30 volumes of text and illustrations, depicting the ancient monuments, artifacts, costumes, weapons, coins, and customs of Russia from the 9th to the 17th century. Solntsev spent over 40 years researching and creating this work, which was commissioned by Emperor Nicholas I in 1829. The work was published between 1844 and 1853, in a limited edition of 600 copies. It is considered to be one of the most comprehensive and accurate sources of Russian history and culture. A complete set of this work is extremely rare and valuable, with one selling for $2.8 million in 2010.
8. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres)
This is the seminal work of astronomy by the Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). It was published in 1543, shortly before his death, and it presented his heliocentric theory, which stated that the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun, contrary to the prevailing geocentric view that placed the Earth at the center of the universe. The book was revolutionary and controversial, as it challenged the authority of the Catholic Church and the ancient philosophers on cosmology. It also influenced later scientists such as Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton. The book was printed in about 300 copies,
and only about half of them survive today. It is one of the most influential and rare books in the history of science, with a copy selling for $2.2 million in 2018.
7. Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (First Folio)
This is the first collected edition of the plays of the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616). It was published in 1623, seven years after his death, by his friends and fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell. The book contains 36 plays, of which 18 had never been printed before, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, and As You Like It. The book is also known as the First Folio, because it was printed in a large format called folio. The book was printed in about 750 copies, and only about 230 are known to exist today. It is considered to be the most important book in English literature and one of the rarest books in the world, with a copy selling for $6.2 million in 2001.
6. Birds of America by John James Audubon
This book is a collection of 435 life-size prints of birds, drawn and engraved by Audubon himself. It is considered one of the finest examples of natural history illustration ever produced. Only 120 copies of the original edition are known to exist, and one of them sold for $11.5 million in 2010.
5. The Gutenberg Bible
This book is the first major book printed using movable type in the West. It is a Latin translation of the Bible, completed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455. It is estimated that around 180 copies were printed, of which 49 are still intact. A single leaf from the book can fetch up to $25,000.
4. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
This book is a collection of fairy tales written by Rowling for the Harry Potter series. It was first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and later published as a limited edition of seven copies in 2007. Six copies were given to Rowling’s friends and editors, and one was auctioned for charity, fetching $3.98 million.
3. The Bay Psalm Book
This book is the first book printed in British North America, in 1640. It is a translation of the Psalms from Hebrew into English by the Puritan settlers of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Only 11 copies are known to survive, and one of them sold for $14.2 million in 2013.
2. The abc with the Pater noster, Aue, Credo, and .x. co [m]maundementes in Englysshe newly translated and set forth, at the kyngs most gracyouse commaundement
This book is the first English language book printed in England, in 1536. It is a primer for teaching children the alphabet, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Apostles’ Creed and the Ten Commandments. It was commissioned by King Henry VIII as part of his religious reforms. Only two copies are known to exist, and one of them is in the British Library.
1. Codex Leicester by Leonardo da Vinci
This book is a collection of scientific writings and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, dating from 1506 to 1510. It covers topics such as astronomy, geology, hydrology, mechanics and optics. It is named after Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, who bought it in 1719. In 1994, it was purchased by Bill Gates for $30.8 million, making it the most expensive book ever sold.