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First book printed in the US sells for $14.2 million at Sotheby's auction

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Bay Psalm book
Bay Psalm book

One of 11 remaining copies of the first book ever written and printed in the United States has just sold for $14.2 million at a Sotheby's auction. According to CNN, the Bay Psalm Book set a record for a book sold at auction — even though the final price was well short of the $15 to $30 million Sotheby's expected the book to sell for. "It's so very valuable because it is the beginning of Western civilization in our country," said Sotheby's vice chairman David Redden. "In fact, it is the first poetry in America — it's as simple as that." It's only the second time a copy of the book has come up for auction since 1894, with the most recent auction taking place in 1947.

The copy of the Bay Psalm Book that sold at auction came from the collection of the Old South Church in Boston — which had held the book for over three hundred years. The remaining ten copies (from the total of 1,700 originally printed) are currently held in institutional collections including the New York Public Library, Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and the Huntington Library in California. While Sotheby's got less money at this auction than it expected, the $14.2 million sale well eclipsed record-holding book sale (John James Audubon's Birds of America sold for $11.5 million in 2010). The winning bidder, philanthropist David Rubenstein, has said that he'll loan the book to libraries around the country before eventually putting it on long-term loan.