Friday, April 26, 2013

Sotheby’s claims to auction the ‘world’s most valuable’ document

Sotheby’s New York is set to auction off, what it claims, to be among the finest-surviving rare Bay Psalm Book copies, the first ever book printed in America. No example of it has made an appearance at any auction since the year 1947, when incidentally another copy scaled a record price for any of the printed books at the time –, including Shakespeare’s ‘First Folio’, Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’ and the Gutenberg Bible, in that period.

The present example from collection of the Old South Church comes to Sotheby’s New York auction with $15/30 million as a pre-sale estimate. It was on view in their York Avenue galleries a few days ago, prior to embarking on a traveling show in cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago in the coming months. It will return in New York just before the auction in the week preceding the Thanksgiving holiday.

The director of Sotheby’s Books Department (Special Projects & Worldwide Chairman), David Redden stated: “The Bay Psalm Book, not only the first book ever printed in the US and also the first one written in the country, served as a precursor to Lexington and Concord, and to American political independence, ultimately.

“With this tiny book of 1640, New England had announced its independence from the Church of England. It’s a mythical rarity, not seen for over two generations on the marketplace, and thus has become a precious collectible.” According to him, the precious document printed in the American wilderness embodies the values, which created the nation: religious liberty and political freedom.

In search of religious freedom, the Congregationalist Puritans emigrating to Massachusetts Bay, set about translating and producing the Book of Psalms version - the Hebrew original’s a much closer paraphrase than the existing one that they had carried over from Britain. The 1st edition of the subsequent book was duly printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sotheby’s is going to auction one of the only 11 surviving copies in the upcoming dedicated auction event. Its proceeds will benefit the mission of the Old South Church right in the heart of Boston.

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