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"Priceless" Audubon Book Fetches Highest Price Ever -- $11.5 Million

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Continuing a trend of investing in objets d’art rather than in the fickle stock market, London art dealer Michael Tollemache dropped £7,321,250 (about $11.5 million) Tuesday on one of the 119 copies of John James Audubon’s Birds of America left in existence.

Weighing in at some $320,000 per inch of height, the world’s most expensive book features 1,000 illustrations of about 500 bird species -- 435 of the illustrations are hand-colored.

“I think it’s priceless, don’t you?” Tollemache rhetoricized to Bloomberg.

Except for their price, many things sold at Sotheby’s are priceless.

Justifying the exorbitant figure, Tollemache told the London Evening Standard, “Of course they are not books. They just happen to have been bound. This tells us absolutely nothing about the book market in general.”

He’s right. The world’s most expensive nonbook that just happens to have been bound is still the shooting script for Cutthroat Island.

And apparently not even Shakespeare rates more than $2.3 million, the price a 1623 First Folio brought in at the same Sotheby’s auction.

In 2000, Christie’s sold another copy of Birds of America, one of 11 that are privately owned, to Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar for what was until Tuesday a record $8.8 million.

Audubon spent $115,000 over the course of 12 years putting the book together, and 200 copies were printed in the UK in 1838.

Among auction records, Tollemache’s purchase falls somewhere between the Chippendale commode that went for $6 million on Tuesday, and the Graff pink diamond that fetched $46 million in November.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.