This book has gained immense notoriety in the last decade, due to the fact that it achieved two different types of records. On one hand it was the first book printed in English in North America and secondly it became the most expensive book sold at auction. We are talking about the Bay Psalm Book. It is essentially a sacred text that was used to be sung during the course of worship. A group of 30 scholars, including John Cotton, Richard Mather, and John Eliot, were responsible for creating a new translation of the 150 Hebrew psalms into English and converting the text into singing verse. We will tell you more details about this story below.
In order to produce the Bay Psalm Book in 1640, the nascent colony had to import printing tools and supplies. Let’s remember that during those years the United States was just being formed, the territory was formed by 13 colonies, and in fact it would not achieve its independence until 100 years later. The story can be traced back to Reverend Jose Glover, who left England with his entire family for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638. He was carrying a printing press with him, but he perished on the way. His wife and children were the ones who set up the press and began printing.
The auction was carried out by the renowned house Sotheby's in New York and was sold for a value of 14,165,000 million dollars. Selby Kifer, a specialist in Sotheby's Special Projects department, explained that the Bay Psalm Book was the first to be written and printed in British America, which would later become the United States. Kiffer has pointed out that the value of this book lies not only in this feature, but also in the scarcity of copies like this today. The book was owned by a Boston church and the proceeds will be used to support its activities.
As we have already mentioned, the book has broken all records for value at auction. It even surpassed the auction of the book Birds of America, by John James Audubon, which had been sold for almost 12 million dollars in 2010. There is, however, a record that the book could not break and that is the manuscript of "The Leicester Code" by Leonardo Da Vinci, which was acquired by businessman Bill Gates in 1994 for the total sum of 24 million euros.
But you may be wondering who was the lucky buyer? This is the financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein, billionaire founder of The Carlyle Group, which, according to Sotheby's, intends to make the book available to the public through exhibitions in different libraries in the United States. The rest of the existing copies are in the United States Library of Congress, the Yale and Brown Universities, the American Antiquarian Society, the Boston Public Library and the Rosenbach Library. However, there is an online version for anyone who wants to see and learn more about this famous book.
A Little Bit of History
From its opening and for at least fifty years, Glover's print shop on Crooked Street, now known as Holyoke Street, was the only print shop available within the 13 colonies. In 1640, a total of 1,700 quarter copies with 37 pages were printed and sold exclusively at the first America’s bookstore owned by Hezekiah Usher. Due to the inexperience of the printers, the edition had some typographical errors and errors of backwards letters or disordered pages. The second edition of the Bay Psalm Book was printed in 1647 and the third, much revised, in 1650.