AbeBooks has announced their latest list of the top prices paid for books sold on the top old and used books website in the world. This one covers the third quarter, July-September, of 2023. It is a list of the 13 highest prices, a lucky number, at least for the booksellers who sold these items. As always, there is a wide variety of material that reaches the heights, the one thing in common being the willingness of the buyers to spend what it takes to fill their collections. Here are those 13 most expensive items.
13. Cosmographey: das ist, Beschreibung Aller Länder... by Sebastian Münster, published in 1598. This Munster was not from the family more associated with Halloween, but a 16th century monk and professor, and in particular, cartographer and cosmographer. This book is a description of the world as known in the 16th century, with 1,200 woodcuts to illustrate it. Sold by Antiquariat Daniel Schramm. $13,200.
12. The Works of Henry James: The Novels and Tales, 24 volumes, by, of course, Henry James, published 1907-1909. A thorough collection of the works of the prolific novelist, playwright, etc., though not quite complete as he lived until 1916. Sold by Raptis Rare Books. $14,000.
10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, first British trade edition, published in 1932. The dystopian novel projects a future state created by humans too smart for their own good. Sold by Burnside Rare Books. $15,000.
10. The North American Review and Miscellaneous Journal, 237 volumes. A nearly complete run of the great literary magazine published from 1815-1940. Many of the great writers and political figures of its time found their way into its pages. Sold by Between the Covers Rare Books. $15,000 (or just $63.30 an issue).
8. 12-Page Hand-written Letter and Other Documents by John Steinbeck. Writes Steinbeck, “A writer is essentially a very talkative person who has not the power of speech. And so he takes out his impulses with a pencil. The only social advantage he has over other bores lies in the fact that no one has to read him, no one that is except his agent. Relatives can avoid it, friends do.” Sold by CWO Books. $16,000.
8. Dark Passage by David Goodis, published in 1946. Inscribed by the author to Jerry Wald, who produced the film version starring Bogart and Bacall. Sold by Captain Ahab's Rare Books. $16,000.
7. The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville, first English edition, published in 1857. Not his most famous or best-selling book, it is less common than that other book. Sold by Clarel Rare Books. $17,500.
6. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, first British edition, published in 1949. This one fits well on a list with Brave New World, another dystopian novel about our frightening future. Sold by Idler Fine Books. $17,550.
5. Letters Suppressed in the English Edition of "De Profundis" by Oscar Wilde, published in 1905. Letters from prison by Oscar Wilde to lover Lord Alfred Douglas were published posthumously by his literary executor, Robert Ross, who left some out. This is a proof copy of the rare first printing in English of these missing letters. Sold by Maggs Bros. Ltd. $19,000.
4. An Early Vellum Manuscript Leaf From A Carolingian Homiliary. Described as “outstanding example of the highly legible Caroline minuscule that dominated Europe in the ninth century.” Sold by Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books. $20,800.
3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, with a handwritten letter by the author, published in 1932. Second appearance on the list of this book, its value greatly enhanced by the letter. Sold by Quintessential Rare Books. $25,000.
2. The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot, published in 1922. A first U. S. edition of one of the most influential works of 20th century poetry. Sold by Quintessential Rare Books. $35,000.
1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, published in 1891. Wilde's second appearance on the list, this is a copy of the large paper “edition de luxe,” copy 115 of 250 signed by Wilde. Maybe it's best just not to have your portrait painted. Sold by Shapero Rare Books. $46,875.