10 of the Rarest Books in History

Storytelling is an important part of the human story. Our ancestors would tell stories, and those stories would be passed down through the generations. With the introduction of the printing press in the 15th century, stories were printed in books and duplicated many times over.

Today, it is easy to find a copy of almost any book. Just go to your local library or bookstore or order the book online. The books mentioned below are not that easy to find.

These are ten of the rarest books in history. They are rare because the author decided to print fewer copies, the copies were lost to history, etc. In any case, all of the books on our current list have two things in common: they are historically or culturally significant, and they are extremely difficult. find.

Related: 10 absolutely bizarre books and their stories

10 Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen

The first book on our list is by an iconic writer, Jane Austen. Her most famous work, pride and prejudice, was written and published at the beginning of the 19th century. Like many classic works, it was not immediately well received. It was considered somewhat frivolous by scholars at the time.

Although the novel was considered inconsequential at the time of its publication, Austen is now known as one of the most iconic writers of all time, having penned six full-length novels. Originally, pride and prejudice it was printed in three separate volumes. These first edition copies are some of the rarest books in existence. The most recent sale of the original first edition. pride and prejudice volumes was in 2010. At that time, the first edition sold for nearly $180,000.

9 The Tale of Peter Rabbit: Beatrix Potter

hundred years before Harry Potter was a household name, another Potter was famous in children’s literature. In 1902 Beatrix Potter wrote and published The tale of Peter Rabbit.>> The book itself is only fifty-six pages. And like many books on this list, it has been reproduced many times.

the tale of peter rabbit It has been printed in thirty-six languages ​​and has sold more than 40 million copies. However, the original first edition printing created only 250 copies. This was a deliberate choice by Potter, as he wanted to distribute his book to family and friends. The location of all copies is unknown, but one of the originals sold in 2016 for over $50,000.

8 On the revolutions of the celestial spheres: Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus is one of the fathers of modern astronomy. His theory of a sun-centric universe is the most notable impact he left on the scientific community. This is the idea that the Sun is the center of the universe. For centuries before this, astronomers agreed that the Earth was the center of the universe (called the geocentric model).

At the time, Copernicus was concerned about his place in society and the reaction to his heliocentric model. After all, this kind of thinking was considered heresy upon his death. So Copernicus launched On the revolutions of the celestial spheres while he was on his deathbed. Currently, around 250 copies remain, making them not only extremely influential but also quite rare. Historical libraries have many copies, but those owned by individuals can cost as much as $2 million.

7 First Folio: William Shakespeare

When you think of books and stories, one man packs a bigger punch than any other: William Shakespeare. Much of his significance lies in his first foliosometimes called Comedies, stories and tragedies of Mr. William Shakespeare. This book contains thirty-six works written by Shakespeare, including some of the most famous: The Tempest, Romeo and Julietand Much ado About Nothing.

Shakespeare’s First Folio was originally printed in 1623, seven years after his death. Originally, only 750 copies of the folio were made. Some 240 of them remain, making this iconic piece of literature one of the rarest and most important books of all time. After all, many of these stories may have been lost forever without Shakespeare’s first folio.

6 Birds of America: James Audubon

The next book on this list is birds of americaOriginally written and illustrated by John James Audubon in 1820. birds of america contains beautiful drawings of 435 different birds. Although Audubon wrote the entire book and completed most of the artwork, his assistant (Joseph Mason) is said to have drawn about fifty of the background images.

One of the things about this book that makes it truly unique is that some of the birds contained in the book have since gone extinct. The pictures in the book were sent as a subscription in the 19th century. There is a complete set in Orange, Texas at the Stark Art Museum. This is Audubon’s personal copy. The exact number of extant copies is debated, although it is likely between one and two hundred.

A complete copy could sell between 8 and 12 million dollars. birds of america is a beautiful book describing specific feathered creatures in early America, so it’s easy to see why it’s so rare and valuable.

5 Tamerlane and Other Poems: Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is known for his spooky tales with a huge legacy. The Raven and the revealing heart are two of his best known works. Sadly, Poe died at just forty years old, with little recognition for his talent. All the notoriety of him came only after his death.

A collection of his works, Tamerlane and other poems, only fifty copies were printed in the first edition. Scholars began to search for his other works as the legend of Poe grew after his death. A first edition of Tamerlane and other poems sold in 2009 for over $600,000. The collection itself is only about forty pages long.

Poe’s life story is much like many of his stories and poems. It is dark and twisted that he did not receive the recognition he deserved in life and will never know the impact he had, and will continue to have, on literature. Currently, the complete copies of the first edition of Tamerlane and other poems they are in the Huntington Library in New York (not available for loan, so stay tuned!) and the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia.

4 gutenberg bible

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century in Mainz, Germany. The first book printed on the printing press was the Bible. So, technically, the “Gutenberg Bible” is the first mass-produced book in world history. Before this time, books were copied by hand or through other inefficient processes.

In 1440 Gutenberg initially printed about 175 copies. Since then, almost all copies have been lost (or the location is not publicly known). About 25 complete copies are said to exist today, 10 of them in the United States and 14 or 15 in Germany. In 1978, a complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible sold for more than $2 million. In 1988, an incomplete copy sold for more than $5 million.

Incredibly, because these prints are so rare, even individual pages from a Gutenberg Bible have sold for $100,000 or more. This book is unique on our list because it’s not the content that makes it weird (after all, the Bible is the most copied book in history), but the method by which the copies were made.

3 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Lewis Carroll

There are 22 copies of the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Only six of them are in the hands of individuals, while the rest are kept in prestigious libraries. This book was written by Carroll, complete with illustrations by John Tenniel, in 1865.

The book was originally supposed to have two thousand copies, but a new edition was created because Tenniel was not satisfied with the copy of his artwork. Before the first original version was withdrawn, Carroll gave close friends and family members copies of the book. This explains why copies of the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland they are so rare, priced at over two million in 2006.

At only 200 pages, this book has had staying power and inspired many movies, TV shows, and more. If he had told Lewis Carroll that a single copy of his book would be worth more than $2 million, he might have thought he had snuck into “Wonderland” himself!

2 The Canterbury Tales: Geoffrey Chaucer

the canterbury tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is a book that has stood the test of time. It has nine tales of different people in the fifteenth century. Each tale is told by a specific character as they all travel to Canterbury, such as “The Knight’s Tale”, “The Friar’s Tale”, “The Squire’s Tale”, etc.

The original printing of the first edition of the canterbury tales it is from 1477. To date, only 12 of those original impressions are counted. The most recent sale of an original print was in 1998. At that time, Sir Paul Getty bought the first edition for about $4.5 million. Because the original printing is so old, these books will only get rarer (and more expensive) as time goes on.

1 The Leicester Codex: Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci is known for many things. He was an inventor, astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, and prolific writer. His personal notebook The Leicester Codexcontains many of his personal scientific observations.

Some of the topics covered in this book include water, air, fossils, astronomy, and more. the leicester codex it is the rarest book on this list and it exists because there is only one copy. After da Vinci’s death, his personal notebook passed into the hands of different important people. First it was Guglielmo della Porta, then Giuseppe Ghezzi, followed by the 1st Earl of Leicester, Thomas Coke.

the codex it remained in the custody of the Leicester Earls until American Armand Hammer bought it in 1980. Fourteen years later, another American businessman, Bill Gates, bought it for more than $30 million. He is the current owner of the leicester codex. The book itself has only eighteen handwritten pages, meaning Gates paid $1.6 million per page.

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