AbeBooks Lists Its Ten Most Expensive Items of 2008
Self-portrait of Sir Francis Seymour Hayden, whose book finished number 1 on AbeBooks.
By Michael Stillman
AbeBooks affords us one last chance to look back at 2008 with their list of the Top 10 prices paid for books offered on their site during the past year. Considering that 110 million items are listed, and many millions were sold, this is quite an exclusive list. The subject matter of these works was, for the most part, fairly serious. There are works on science, math, photography, art, politics, and religion. However, there are also a couple of books for children included. What is missing, surprisingly enough, is literature - no novels made their way into the top 10. It is strictly truth and fairy tales, that is, nonfiction and children's books, that rule the Top 10. Here they are:
10. Biblia Latina, printed by Johannes Herbort de Seligenstadt. We don't see a great deal of incunabula sold on listing sites, but this 1484 bible is an exception. $10,807.
9. Peter Beard Collector's Edition by Peter Beard, about as un-incunable as it gets. This is a 2006 limited collector's copy signed by the noted photographer. $10,808.
8. Grimms Fairy Tales by Jakob & Wilhelm Grimm, a first edition, first issue with 22 etched plates by George Cruikshank. $11,388.
7. An autographed letter from humorous poet Edward Lear, best known for The Owl and the Pussycat. This 1867 letter contained a self-caricature sketch by Lear along with a comedic request to visit the recipient. $11,491.
6. The first six books of the Elements of Euclid, an 1847 edition published by the Chiswick Press. Designed to simplify Euclid's propositions, it has been described as "one of the oddest and most beautiful books of the century." $11,750.
5. The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia, by David Roberts. This is the 1855 first American edition of this work by the prolific artist/illustrator who visited the Holy Land in the 1830s. Interestingly, an 1838 edition of this same work was number 5 on Abe's Top 10 last year as well. $12,360.
4. Specimens of British minerals selected from the cabinet of Philip Rashleigh, by Philip Rashleigh. This work describes the British landowner's rock collection. $12,754.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, a rare first edition signed by the author. $12,874.
2. L'Abou Naddara, Journal Arabe Illustre (1878-1884) by James Sanua. Sanua, also known as "Abu Naddara" (Father Spectacles), produced these political journals pertaining to Egypt in Paris to overcome suppression in that country by Egyptian officials. $13,000.
1. Etudes à l'Eau-Forte by Francis Seymour Haden, a collection of 25 etchings by Hayden, 24 of landscapes in Britain and Ireland, plus one a portrait of Hayden. $17,216.
AbeBooks also published lists of Top 10's by category, and among those headed by books that did not make the overall Top 10 were Poems (1909-1925) by TS Eliot for poetry ($8,500); Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis for science fiction and fantasy ($7,950); Lord of the Flies by William Golding for novels ($9,260); and Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama for books by people in the headlines ($5,500). Finally, for the most unusual item on the list, in the category of ephemera, number 1 was George Bernard Shaw's typewriter. Perhaps it will similarly inspire its new owner. This antiquarian word processor sold for $7,979.