The Holy Bible is the most common book in the world, with around 4 billion copies sold in the past half-century alone. There are a lot of bibles that are handed out for free, while others can end up being more valuable. Some of the bibles throughout history have been so rare and valuable that they have been worth millions of dollars at auction.
What’s the story behind these bibles, and how much did they sell for? Here’s a look at the five rarest and most valuable bibles throughout time. Before we get into the list, the prices of the bibles that were sold are adjusted for inflation. This allowed some of the books that were sold several decades ago to make their way up the list since they were more valuable when adjusted.
Bay Psalm Book
Known simply as the Bay Psalm Book, this bible’s full name is ‘The Whole Booke of Psalms Faithfully Translated into English Metre’ and was printed in 1640. The oldest and rarest American bible on the list, this one comes from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
By the time the 21st century came along, there were only 11 known copies of the Bay Psalm Book that were still intact. That’s why, in 2013, one of the copies was sold for what is now $16.5 million. Billionaire David Rubenstein was the one who purchased the book. Rubenstein is known for founding The Carlyle Group and is an avid art collector.
St. Cuthbert Gospel
There are some large books on this list, but the smallest one is the St. Cuthbert Gospel, which was created in the early 8th century and can fit right into your pocket at less than 5.5 inches in length. In fact, its tiny stature is what makes it so rare, as many of the smaller books created during that time have been lost for good.
The St. Cuthbert Gospel is the oldest Western bible that’s still alive today and contains just under 100 pages in total. This bible has been on display in several locations over the years and has had many different owners. Thankfully, the bible has been well preserved, and it sold in 2012 for what now amounts to around $17 million.
Gospels of Henry the Lion
A masterpiece of art, the Gospels of Henry the Lion were created for an altar in the Brunswick Cathedral in the 12th century. While an exact date isn’t given, many historians believe that it began work in 1175 and was completed after more than a decade. There are more than 260 pages in the book, containing four gospels and dozens of pages with illustrations.
At the time of its sale in 1983, the Gospels of Henry the Lion was the most expensive book ever sold for over 8 million GBP. The book is kept in near-mint condition to this day and is only displayed every other year. When adjusted for inflation, the book was sold for nearly $32 million, making it the third most expensive bible in history.
Back in the 15th century, Robert Bruyning commissioned a bible to be created for the Abbey of St. Mary in Sherborne, England. The result was some of the finest religious artistry that has ever been seen in the form of the 347-page Sherborne Missal. At just over 21 inches in length and 15 inches in width, this large bible has detailed work on every single page.
The size of the book should also tell you just how heavy it is. Weighing in at a whopping 44 pounds, John Whas made sure that he put his heart and soul into the Sherborne Missal. The book was purchased by the British Library so that it could be displayed, and it sold in 1998 for $21 million. These days, that translates to over $32.5 million, as it’s considered a great art piece on top of a great bible.
The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon serves as the main religious text of the Latter Day Saints. The book is said to have been started in the 7th century BC and wasn’t completed until nearly a millennium later. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that the handwritten version that we know today was written by Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.
Smith translated the ancient texts in the United States and it has since served as the main guide for the religion. The original transcript from Smith himself had been owned by Oliver Cowdery and was obtained by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the start of the 20th century. It was purchased by the modern LDS Church to the tune of what is now over $38.7 million in 2017.