The Most Expensive Books in the World That Are Worth More Than A Read

Codex Leicester, US$30.8 million


Written by Leonardo da Vinci, the Codex Leicester is a collection of the Italian Renaissance polymath’s famous scientific writings. Despite having written 30 scientific journals, the Codex is probably his most famous. The collection looks into the mind of the iconic artist, scientist and thinker, whilst showcasing stunning illustrations the way art and science is linked. November 1994 was when the collection was sold to Bill Gates at Christie's for a record breaking US$30,802,500 million, making the Codex Leicester one of the most expensive books of all time.

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Gospels of Henry the Lion, £8,140,000


Henry the Lion at his wedding to Matilda of England

Originally intended for the Brunswick Cathedral, the Gospels of Henry the Lion is widely considered a 12th century masterpiece of Romanesque art. The 266-page manuscript contains the text of four gospels and about 50 pages of full illustrations. The Gospels of Henry the Lion once topped the list of most expensive books in the world after being sold at auction for £8,140,000 in 1983 at Sotheby's London. Due to heavy security, the preserved gospel book is displayed only once every years, and is kept in Germany’s Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel.

Magna Carta, US$21.3 million


A 1297 copy of Magna Carta, on display in the Members' Hall of Parliament House, Canberra

Better known as Magna Carta, which means "the Great Charter” in Latin, is widely considered as one of the world’s most significant and famous documents. Originally signed in 1215, the Magna Carta was an attempt to contain a tyrannical monarch centuries before the attack of the American colonists. In 2007, a rare 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta was sold to U.S. businessman David Rubenstein for US$21.3 million. Rubenstein was famously quoted that he saw himself as a "temporary custodian” of the document and that he had always believed it was “an important document” to his country.

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The Birds of America, US$11.5 million


A stunning book by naturalist John James Audubon, The Birds of America highlights illustrations of an exhaustive variety of birds in the United States. The book was first published around 1827 to 1838, as a collection of hand-coloured, life-size prints made from engraved plates. Of all the birds in the book, six are now extinct including the Carolina parakeet, Eskimo curlew, Labrador duck, passenger pigeon, great auk, and pinnated grouse. Only 120 copies are known to survive, with about thirteen kept in private collections. copies of the book are known to fetch great amounts at auction, but one of the biggest sales would be in 2010 when a complete copy of the first edition sold for approximately US$11.5 million in London at Sotheby's.

The Canterbury Tales, £4.6m


The Peasants' Revolt of 1381

Written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer around the 14th century, The Canterbury Tales is no doubt, an iconic classic. The collection of 24 stories was immensely popular in medieval England, and details a lengthy poem following the journey of a group of pilgrims including Chaucer himself. The journey from Southwark’s Tabard Inn to the Canterbury Cathedral was intended to have produced two tales from each of the 31 pilgrims, with the best storyteller rewarded a free supper upon their return. Abound with satire, realism and lively characters, The Canterbury Tales is generally thought to have been an incomplete work, but remains a significant literary work with an extensive range of interpretations. In 1998, a first edition The Canterbury Tales was sold for £4.6m at Christie's in London.

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