On Tuesday, November 26, 2013 one of only eleven existing copies of The whole booke of Psalmes faithfully translated into English metre, commonly referred to simply as the Bay Psalms Book was auctioned off at Sotheby’s Auction House in New York City. The Bay Psalm book is truly special because it was the first book published in America. The work was done by the Puritans in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the year 1640.
The Puritans followed a strict lifestyle that valued education because it allowed them to study their religion and follow laws. The Puritans found many flaws in the translations from Hebrew to English of the book of psalms done by the Church of England so they set out to translate the psalms themselves and disseminate the “correct” translation to their congregation. In total, 1700 copies of the small and plainly made Bay Psalms Book were created. The books were used regularly because the entire Puritans congregation sang psalms as part of their worship service.
Only 11 copies of the original 1,700 still exist and all of them are owned by institutions, which makes this auction so rare. The Old South Church in Boston owns two copies of the Bay Psalm Book and decided to sell one of the copies in order to raise money for building repairs and their charity work.
Sotheby’s took the Bay Psalm Book on a tour of America before being auctioned off, giving many fortunate viewers the opportunity to see an incredible piece of American history. The Cleveland Public Library was host to the stop in Cleveland and hundreds came to see it on Wednesday, September 18th.
The Bay Psalms Book sold for $14.2 million to David Rubenstein, and set a new world auction record for a printed book. Rubenstein has stated that he will loan the Bay Psalm to libraries for exhibition around the United States and will eventually be housed in a library under a long-term loan agreement.