Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2022 Issue

Top 14 Highest Prices Paid on AbeBooks for 2021


A warning to cattle rustlers to leave town. The meaning of 3-7-77 is unknown.

AbeBooks has released their list of the top 14 most expensive items purchased on their website in 2021. “Abe” is the largest seller of old books with millions of titles listed. While most may fit in the category of “reading copies,” they also have a wide selection of rare and collectible books. Those include the 14 highest prices paid this past year, ones that sold for $25,000 and up.


12-14 (tie). Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman, published in 1985. This is a signed copy of the autobiography of the brilliant, nerdy physicist who manages to make his life in physics humorous and entertaining. $25,000.


12-14 (tie). Declaration of Independence, a broadside by Peter Force published in 1833. Historian and printer Peter Force was commissioned by Congress to print this facsimile engraved by William Stone for the American Archives. $25,000.


12-14 (tie). The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, a seventh printing published in 1931. This copy was inscribed by Hammett to Bebe Daniels and her husband Ben Lyon. Daniels played the lead in the first film adaptation of Hammett's novel. $25,000.


11. Grapefruit by Yoko Ono, self-published in 1964. Inscribed by the author. Ms. Ono was not a major celebrity at the time she published this book, but became so after she married John Lennon. $25,450.


10. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith published in 1776. This is the Dublin edition, the only other edition of this classic of modern economics published the same year as the first edition. This copy belonged to Lady Davy, the wife of chemist and inventor Sir Humphrey Davy.


9. Dracula by Bram Stoker published in 1897. “Drac” needs no introduction. $27,500.


8. Euclidis Megarensis Geometricorum Elementorum, a 1516 French edition of Euclid's Elements. The ancient Alexandria mathematician lived 1,800 years earlier but had to wait until printing was invented to have a printed book. $27,850.


7. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson published in 1968. Signed by Watson and colleagues and fellow Noble Prize winners Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. $28,500.


6. Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham & David Dodd published in 1934. “The Bible for stock investors.” Graham, like so many, took a beating in the 1929 stock market crash so he set about learning the principles of successful investing. $29,000.


5. Après 50 Ans de Surréalisme by Salvador Dali, the deluxe French edition of 1974. Includes 12 signed color etchings by Dali. $32,000.


4. An autograph letter by E.T.A. Hoffmann from 1816. Hoffmann wrote Gothic horror stories, his stories inspiring the opera the Tales of Hoffmann and Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker. $32,823.


3. Derrière le Miroir, 243 issues of the French art magazine published from 1946-1982. One issue was signed by Joan Miro. $35,000.


2 The Birds of America by John James Audubon, a 1972 facsimile. The Johnson Reprint edition in four double-elephant folios. Looks much like the 1827-1839 original which can sell for over $10 million. $36,635.


1. Pencil Sketches of Montana by A.E. Mathews published in 1868. It contains 31 sketches of early Montana by Mathews and this copy came with a loose vigilante card with a skull and crossbones intended to warn cattle rustlers to get out of town. $37,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.

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