Most Expensive Bibles and Religious Books
Religious books and manuscripts are some of the first written records in history. Any that last to the modern day (in full or in part) are pretty valuable.
These are the most expensive Bibles and religious books that have sold at auction to date. The top one might surprise you.
10. Gutenberg Bible
Year sold: 1987
Sold for: $5.4 million ($10.2 million today)
Bottom line: The Gutenberg Bible was the first mass-printed book and dates back to the 15th-century. There are 49 copies (full and in part) in existence.
This particular bible was part of a 1987 auction by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It was once owed by philanthropist Estelle Doheny and purchased by Maruzen, a Japanese bookseller, who resold it to Keio University for undisclosed sum in 1996.
9. Luzzatto High Holiday Mahzor
Year sold: 2021
Sold for: $8.3 million (8.7 million today)
Bottom line: This illustrated Hebrew prayerbook dates back to the late 13th and early 14th centuries and is believed to be from southern Germany. There are less than 20 that exist today.
It tells the story of medieval European Jewish communities and their migration across the continent and contains the liturgy for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
It was sold by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU), who had purchased it in 1870, to an anonymous buyer in 2021.
8. Timurid Quran
Year sold: 2020
Sold for: $8.8 million ($9.3 million today)
Bottom line: The Timurid Quran (also known as the Aqquyunlu Quran) was created around the time of the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century.
The gold-flecked book with colored pages features Thuluth calligraphy and white, blue and gold medallions in its margins.
Sold in 2020, its origins and buyer remain unknown.
7. Babylonian Talmud
Year sold: 2015
Sold for: $9.32 million ($10.7 million today)
Bottom line: In 2015, this 16th-century Babylonian Talmud went up for auction. It was one of only 14 multivolume, full sets still in existence.
Daniel Bomberg, a Christian publisher living in Venice, employed rabbis and scholars to help him print the Rabbinic Bible and the first complete Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds.
The book was printed between 1519 and 1523 and was purchased by Stephan Loewentheil, a rare books expert, for private equity billionaire Leon Black.
6. Gospels of Henry the Lion
Year sold: 1983
Sold for: $11.7 million ($31.8 million today)
Bottom line: This illuminated manuscript dates back to the 12th century and was made for Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, for the altar of the Virgin Mary in St. Blaise's Abbey, Brunswick.
Commissioned at the Benedictine Helmarshausen Abbey, it contains 266 pages of the four gospels and has 50 full-page illustrations.
It was purchased by the German government in 1983 and is kept in the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüt, where it can be seen once every two years.
5. Rothschild Prayerbook
Year sold: 2014
Sold for: $13.6 million ($15.6 million today)
Bottom line: Also known as the"Rothschild Hours," this Flemish illuminated manuscript was compiled in the early 1500s by various artists. The original owner of this book of hours is unknown but is believed to be someone of nobility and royalty.
By the later 1500s, it belonged to the Wittelsbach Dynasty, and in the 16th century, it found its way to the count palatine in Heidelberg. By 1623, it had vanished. It reappeared in the hands of the Viennese branch of the Rothschild family in the late 1800s.
It was taken from Louis Nathaniel von Rothschild after Germany annexed Austria just before World War II. After the war, it was taken by the Austrian government, which placed it in the National Library until 1999, when it returned the book to the family. It landed in the hands of Kerry Stokes, an Australian billionaire, in 2014.
4. Bay Psalm Book
Year sold: 2013
Sold for: $14.2 million($16.5 million today)
Bottom line: The most expensive religious book from the United States, the Bay Psalm Book (original title, "The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre") is a metrical psalter, a book with verse translations from the Book of Psalms meant to be sung as hymns.
Dating back to 1640, none of the translations are used today (they are also very crude), but it was used for at least a hundred years.
Eleven copies of its first edition are known to exist, but only five copies are complete. American financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein bought this copy in 2013.
3. St Cuthbert Gospel
Year sold: 2012
Sold for: $14.3 million ($16.9 million today)
Bottom line: This eighth-century pocket gospel book is the earliest known bound book in Western civilization. Written in Latin and covered by ornate leather, at only 5.4 inches × 3.6 inches, it is one of the smallest Anglo-Saxon manuscripts still with us today.
The book's name comes from Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, North East England, and was placed in his tomb sometime after his 687 A.D. death.
It was purchased by the British Library in 2012.
2. Sherborne Missal
Year sold: 1998
Sold for: $21.2 million ($32.5 today)
Bottom line: This colorful, lavishly decorated 347-page missal was made in the Middle Ages for the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary’s in Sherborne, Dorset.
It was likely commissioned by Robert Bruyning, the abbot at the Abbey of St. Mary's, who's seen in the book over a hundred times.
Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland, purchased the book in 1998 for the British Library.
1. Book of Mormon
Year sold: 2017
Sold for: $35 million ($38.7 million today)
Bottom line: The original handwritten draft of the Book of Mormon was dictated by Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith to scribes in the late 1820s.
This central text of Mormonism was allegedly derived from Smith’s translation of ancient texts he claims to have found inscribed on golden tablets near his Palmyra, New York, home a decade earlier.
This draft was sent to a local printer for typesetting, then given to a Mormon church member for safekeeping. It stayed in the Church of Christ's (a Mormon sect) possession from 1903 until its sale to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in 2017.