According to Forbes, a copy of the Bay Psalm Book, a Puritan translation of the book of Psalms originally owned by Old South Church in Boston, went for over $14 million at auction last week, breaking the record for the highest amount ever offered for a printed book. Old South Church voted to sell the book, which was printed in Cambridge in 1640. The church, among its claims to fame, baptized Ben Franklin and hosted meetings that led to the Boston Tea Party.
The book is considered to be the first book written and printed in the New World. “The text was important because it was a new translation from the original Hebrew version of the Book of Psalms,” said Sotheby’s special projects senior specialist, Selby Kiffer. “Other psalms existed but many were paraphrases of English prose translations.” The new transcription of biblical psalms into metered verse, “was a remarkable achievement for the colonists to print the work just two decades after their arrival at Plymouth Rock and shows the advance of Western culture in the New World,” said Nathan Raab, vice president of the Raab Collection, an important historical documents dealer.
Only 11 copies of the book now survive and reside in some very old east coast collections including The Library of Congress, The New York Public Library, Yale University Library and Harvard College Library.