A yellowed title page, adorned with decorative flourishes, reads: “The Whole Booke of Psalmes, Faithfully Translated into English Metre.” At the bottom, it says: “Imprinted 1640.”
Historians believe an almanac may have come off the press before the Bay Psalm Book. But the chief of rare books and special collections at the Library of Congress, Mark Dimunation, has said the almanac was more of a pamphlet or a broadsheet than a book. No copy of the almanac exists today. Dimunation noted that in the Americas, in general, books were printed in what is now Mexico as early as 1539.
“American poetry, American spirituality and the printed page all kind of combine and find themselves located in a single volume,” Dimunation said of the Bay Psalm Book.
The last time a copy came on the auction block, in 1947, it sold for a record auction price of $151,000, surpassing auction prices for the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare’s First Folio and “Birds of America.”
The auction record for any book goes to the Leonardo da Vinci Codex Hammer, a personal notebook of scientific writings and diagrams. It sold for $30.8 million at Christie’s auction house in 1994.