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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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Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.
10 Terrific Facts About Stephen King
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Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

As if being one of the world's most successful and prolific writers wasn't already reason enough to celebrate, Stephen King is ringing in his birthday as the toast of Hollywood. As It continues to break box office records, we're digging into the horror master's past. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Stephen King, who turns 70 years old today.


Stephen and Tabitha King own Zone Radio, a company that serves to head their three radio stations in Maine. One of them, WKIT, is a classic rock station that goes by the tagline "Stephen King's Rock Station."


Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Not only did he write a story about the Boston Red Sox—The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (who was a former Red Sox pitcher)—he also had a cameo in the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie Fever Pitch, which is about a crazed Sox fan. He plays himself and throws out the first pitch at a game.

In 2004, King and Stewart O'Nan, another novelist, chronicled their reactions to the season that finally brought the World Series title back to Beantown. It's appropriately titled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.


You probably remember that King was hit by a van not far from his summer home in Maine in 1999. The incident left King with a collapsed lung, multiple fractures to his hip and leg, and a gash to the head. Afterward, King and his lawyer bought the van for $1500 with King announcing that, "Yes, we've got the van, and I'm going to take a sledgehammer and beat it!"


King's brain seems to be able to create chilling stories at such an amazing clip, yet he's seen his fair share of horror in real life. In addition to the aforementioned car accident, when King was just a kid his friend was struck and killed by a train (a plot line that made it into his story "The Body," which was adapted into Stand By Me). While it would be easy to assume that this incident informed much of King's writing, the author claims to have no memory of the event:

"According to Mom, I had gone off to play at a neighbor’s house—a house that was near a railroad line. About an hour after I left I came back (she said), as white as a ghost. I would not speak for the rest of the day; I would not tell her why I’d not waited to be picked up or phoned that I wanted to come home; I would not tell her why my chum’s mom hadn’t walked me back but had allowed me to come alone.

"It turned out that the kid I had been playing with had been run over by a freight train while playing on or crossing the tracks (years later, my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket). My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as I’ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact."


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King, John Mellencamp, and T Bone Burnett collaborated on a musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which made its debut in 2012. The story is based on a house that Mellencamp bought in Indiana that came complete with a ghost story. Legend has it that three siblings were messing around in the woods and one of the brothers accidentally got shot. The surviving brother and sister jumped in the car to go get help, and in their panic, swerved off the road right into a tree and were killed instantly. Of course, the three now haunt the woods by Mellencamp's house.


King played rhythm guitar for a band made up of successful writers called The Rock Bottom Remainders. From 1992 to 2012, the band "toured" about once a year. In addition to King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and Ridley Pearson were just some of its other members.


A photo of Stephen King's home in Bangor, Maine.
By Julia Ess - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

King writes about Maine a lot because he knows and loves The Pine Tree State: he was born there, grew up there, and still lives there (in Bangor). Castle Rock, Derry, and Jerusalem's Lot—the fictional towns he has written about in his books—are just products of King's imagination, but he can tell you exactly where in the state they would be if they were real.


Throughout much of the 1980s, King struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. In discussing this time, he admitted that, "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all. I don't say that with pride or shame, only with a vague sense of sorrow and loss. I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page."

It came to a head when his family members staged an intervention and confronted him with drug paraphernalia they had collected from his trash can. It was the eye-opener King needed; he got help and has been sober ever since.


King was an avid Lost fan and sometimes wrote about the show in his Entertainment Weekly column, "The Pop of King." The admiration was mutual. Lost's writers mentioned that King was a major influence in their work. There was a lot of speculation that he was the man behind Bad Twin, a Lost tie-in mystery, but he debunked that rumor.


A photo of Stephen King's son, author Joe Hill
Joe Hill
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Stephen isn't the only writer in the King family: His wife, Tabitha King, has published several novels. Joe, their oldest son, followed in his dad's footsteps and is a bestselling horror writer (he writes under the pen name Joe Hill). Youngest child Owen has written a collection of short stories and one novella and he and his dad co-wrote Sleeping Beauties, which will be released later this month (Owen also married a writer). Naomi, the only King daughter, is a minister and gay activist.

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Kyle Ely
Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.


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