NPR logo Most Expensive Book Ever To Go On Sale

Must Reads

Most Expensive Book Ever To Go On Sale

If you've never seen a copy of John James Audubon's "Birds of America," it is definitely worth the trip to find a place with one on display. It is a massive book 39x26 inches, 435 hand colored prints.

He painted them over years, each one lovingly hand crafted. They are stunning, warblers and eagles, owls and egrets. Only a few more than a hundred intact copies remain, almost all of them in museums and libraries. The one I saw was at the Huntington Library in Southern California which is really one of our nation's treasures. They turn a page a day so as not to expose any one image to too much light. The day I was there it was the Snowy Egret.

But now, if you want a copy of your own and have say 6-10 million, head to London. One of the few privately owned copies of the book is being auctioned off at Sotheby's. If you can't afford that, they're also auctioning off a Shakespeare first folio, that's only expected to cost maybe 3 million.

A combination image shows three handout photos made available by Sotheby's auctioneers, taken from the book 'The Birds of America' 1827-1838 by John James Audubon.     (Sotheby’s via AFP/Getty Images) Sotheby’s via AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Sotheby’s via AFP/Getty Images
NPR thanks our sponsors