1640 book might fetch tens of millions
David N. Redden recited the opening of the 23rd Psalm the way he had memorized it as a child: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
Then he opened a weathered little book and read the version it contained: “The Lord to mee a shepheard is, want therefore shall not I. Hee in the folds of tender-grasse, doth cause mee downe to lie.”
Those lines were in a volume published in Massachusetts in 1640 that amounted to the Puritans’ religious and cultural manifesto. It was the first book printed in the colonies, and the first book printed in English in the New World. The locksmith who ran the hand-operated press turned out roughly 1,700 copies. The one in Mr. Redden’s hands is one of only 11 known to exist.
Mr. Redden, who is the chairman of Sotheby’s books department and has auctioned copies of Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence, among other historic and valuable documents, will sell that copy on Nov. 26. Sotheby’s expects it to go for $15 million to $30 million, which would make it the most expensive book ever sold at auction — more expensive than a copy of John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America” that sold in December 2010 for $11.54 million (equivalent to $12.39 million in 2013 dollars), the current record.
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