Rare Book of Psalms Sells for $14.16 Million at Auction

Posted on December 1, 2013

NPR reports that a 1640 book of psalms translated from Hebrew in 1640 sold for auction at Sotheby's for an astounding price of $14.16 million. The book is known as the Bay Psalm Book and is the first book published in English in what is now the United States. It is the most expensive printed book sold. There are ten other copies in existence.

David M. Rubenstein, who co-founded the Carlyle Group, was the purchaser. Rubenstein says he will loan the book to museums. The seller was The Old South Church of Boston. In a release the Rev. Nancy Taylor explained why the church put the book up for auction: "We want to take this old hymn book from which we literally sang our praises to God and convert it into doing God's ministry in the world today." Several people were vehemently opposed to the sale of the book including the church's historian.

The book's preface can be viewed online here. The preface describes the book as, "a plaine and familiar translation of the psalms and words of David into english metre." The translators note that they didn't change the meaning of the psalms in any way saying they did not "smooth our verses with the sweetnes of any paraphrase, and soe have attended Conscience rather then Elegance, fidelity rather then poetry in translating the hebrew words into english language, and Davids poetry into english meetre that soe wee may sing in Sion the Lords songs of prayse according to his owne will."