Entertainment & Arts

First book printed in America could sell for $30m

The Bay Psalm Book
Image caption The Bay Psalm Book has not appeared in auction since 1947 when it broke the record for highest price paid for a printed book

The first book printed in America is expected to fetch up to $30m (£20m) when it goes under the hammer in New York later this year.

The Bay Psalm Book, which was printed in Massachusetts in 1640, is one of 11 remaining copies of a translated version of the Book of Psalms.

The book has not appeared at auction since 1947, when it sold for a record breaking $151,000 (£98,990).

In today's money, it would be the equivalent of $1.56m (£1.03m).

At the time, it was the highest price paid for a printed book.

John James Audubon's Birds of America, which sold for $11.5m (£7.6m) in December 2010, currently holds the world auction record for a printed book.

The Bay Psalm Book was written by pilgrims 20 years after they established a colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Colonists John Cotton, Richard Mather and John Eliot, who wrote the book, wanted a version of the psalms which they believed was closer to the original Hebrew than the ones they had brought with them from England.

"The Bay Psalm Book is a mythical rarity," said Sotheby's David Redden.

"With it, New England declared its independence from the Church of England," he added.

Funds for the printing press were raised in England.

The 1640 edition of the Bay Psalm Book is the earliest surviving print from the press, and was adopted by nearly every congregation in the Massachusetts Bay area.

There were 1,700 copies of the original Bay Psalm Book, of which 11 are now left in various degrees of completeness.

The book comes from the collection of the Old South Church in Boston which has two copies of the edition.

Senior minister of the church, Nancy Taylor, said the money from the sale would help to keep the historic building open and help to increase outreach programmes.

The book will tour various cities in the US before the auction on 26 November.

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