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8 Rare Books That Cost a Fortune

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Digital advancements like the Internet, e-book readers, and even your phone may have put a crimp in the sales of traditional books, but they haven't been able to slow down the rare book market. In fact, a 400-page book of psalms that dates back to 1640 is about to be auctioned off, and is expected to sell for over $30 million. Here are some other old, rare page turners that sold for big bucks. 

1. James Audubon's Birds of America

One of the bestselling rare books is a first edition of Birds of America by acclaimed artist and ornithologist James Audubon. The book, which dated back to 1827 and had 435 hand-drawn illustrations, was sold at auction to an anonymous buyer for more than $10 million. The book itself was more than 3 feet in length because Audubon wanted his birds to appear life-size on the page. He also drew the printing plates for his birds in black and white and a number of artists had to hand paint them with watercolors, an expensive process that drove up the price of his book even in his time. 

2. A "First Folio" of William Shakespeare's Works

A first edition of a book by one of the greatest writers of all time (if you don't ask high school English students who are required to read the plays in order to graduate) fetched a pretty penny in 2006—$2.8 million, to be exact—at a Sotheby's auction in London. The book is actually considered one of the least rare since approximately a third of the 750 original copies are still in existence today.

3. Edgar Allan Poe's Tamerlane and Other Poems

America's biggest rare book sale to date goes to a copy of Poe's very first book. A first edition of Tamerlane and Other Poems, a book that Poe claimed he wrote just before he turned 14, sold at a Christie's auction in 2009 for $662,500. Only 50 copies were ever printed, and scholars believe that only 12 are currently in existence. Another copy of the book also held the previous U.S. rare book sale record: It went for $225,000 almost 20 years before the 2006 auction. 

4. Nicolaus Copernicus's De Revolutionibus Orbium Colestium

A first print of Copernicus's first book, in which he theorized that the Earth revolved around the sun, took home a huge chunk of change in 2009. A buyer from Christie's auction house paid more than $2.2 million for the well-preserved book (title translated to On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres). It was the highest price for a rare book sold at an auction where the first telephone book, printed two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the device, went for $170,000. 

5. Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester

The notes and drawings of one of mankind's greatest men is also in the hands of the one of its richest. Microsoft founder and entrepreneur Bill Gates spent more than $30.8 million for an original copy of da Vinci's famous manuscript that the artist and inventor first penned in 1508. Then, rather than just watch it collect dust in his archives, Gates had digital copies made of the manuscript and put them online as part of a virtual exhibit with the British Library.

6. The Guo Family Library Collection

Individually, the books in this collection may not have sold for big bucks, but as a collection, they made for an impressive sale. Guo Yunlou sold his family's collection of 1292 books, some of which dated back to the 1820s during the reign of China's Qing dynasty, for a staggering 216 million yuan ($34.2 million) at a Beijing auction house last year. It took six generations of his family to amass and care for the collection, which included an 80-volume encyclopedia of flowers. 

7. Action Comics No. 1

It may not be as enlightening as the first copy of the Magna Carta or as intellectually stimulating as a first edition of Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, but that didn't stop one collector from writing a huge check for the first Superman comic book, published in 1938: It sold at an auction in 2011 for a whopping $2.16 million, the highest price for a comic book of any kind. The comic once belonged to actor Nicolas Cage, who reported it stolen from his Hollywood home in 2000. It surfaced again in April 2011 when someone bought an abandoned Southern California storage locker and found the missing comic among its contents.

8. Golf: Luxury Edition

This book was also a recent print, but the company that published it felt that its rarity and "luxury" merited a more expensive asking price. Wonderland Publications put together a carefully handcrafted book about golf in 2011 and offered an extremely expensive "luxury edition" that readers could pick up for the low, low price of $48,000. The huge price tag wasn't just paying for what went into the book but also what went on it. All 140 pages were hand torn and bound together in a cover made from 400-year-old Russian hide leather. Only 10 were made.

Honorable Mention: Tomas Alexander Hartmann's The Task

This 13-page book isn't very old, but it is very rare and very expensive. German artist and writer Tomas Alexander Hartmann only commissioned one copy of his book, and he put it on the market in 2008 for an asking price of 153 million Euros ($199,940,400). A press release announcing the book's release and first public appearance claimed that Hartmann put such a steep price on it because he took more than 30 years to come up with the words for his 13-page book, and he believed the price was merited because he "sees himself as the greatest philosopher of all time." In 2009, the artist put the book back on display for the final time, reportedly because he "tired of the many questions he finds himself confronted with," according to a press release.  There is no indication that he has found a buyer—so far.

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15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood
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MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

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China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
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FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
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People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
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A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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