Thursday, 9 December 2010

World's most expensive book sells for £7.3m at Sotheby's

On Tuesday a new record was set for the most expensive printed book in the world!
A rare first edition of The Birds of America was sold at Sotheby's in London yesterday on 7th December for £7.3m, making it the most expensive printed book in the world.

London dealer Michael Tollemache, whose winning bid came in more than £1.3m above the £6m estimate, described the work as "priceless".

...and here's a picture of this MASSIVE book:

The four-volume work, produced in the 1830's is  from the private collection of Frederick, 2nd Lord Hesketh, comprises 435 hand-coloured etched plates with line-engraving and aquatint.

The engravings are by Robert Havell and Son, of London, and WH Lizars, of Edinburgh, from the original life-size watercolours by John James Audubon.
All prints were reproduced in double-elephant folio (what a shame we don't have names for paper sizes like that anymore!) which represents a sheet size of around 972mm x 654mm, from the copper plate etchings and then hand coloured.

The Birds of America took Audubon 12 years to complete and his technique involved shooting the birds (with a gun, not a camera - but do remember this was the 1830's) before mounting them with wire in order to pose them for his sketches!

Now I know people think that Fenner Paper have been around for years but even we haven't been going that long!, sadly we didn't supply the paper for this particular job!  However the paper used is all watermarked  J. Whatman Turkey Mill and was actually produced at a paper mill in Maidstone in Kent which is very close to where we are based.

The "Turkey Mill" was established as a paper making mill back in 1740 by James Whatman - hand making paper and over the next hundred years became one of the most highly regarded mills in the country. By 1859 the Turkey Mill and Whatman watermarks (trade names essentially) were sold to a neighbouring mill - Springfield Mill which believe it or not, is still running! - producing a range of specialist scientific filter and medical papers and is the last remaining paper mill in the Maidstone area. In 1976 the original Turkey Mill was bought by the dreaded Wiggins Teape (now ArjoWiggins) and closed down, bringing to an end over 280 years of continuous paper making at Turkey Mill.

Here endeth the history lesson!
Posted by Justin Hobson 09.12.2010

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