An elephant folio first edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America was the most expensive book sold at auction in 2010 and, at well over $11 million, sold for the highest price ever for a book. In 2011, 11 lots fetched above one million dollars, compared to just 8 in 2010, but none came close to the Audubon price.
On January 20, 2012, bidders will again have a chance to acquire a double elephant folio edition of Audubon's Birds of America. Considered an American masterpiece, there are known to be 107 intact copies in institutions, and 13 in private hands.
The copy to be sold by Christie's this month in New York is said to have once belonged to William Henry Cavdendish, the Fourth Duke of Portland. To fetch a world record, the lot will need to exceed the pre-sale high estimate of $10 million.
An illuminated, velum manuscript of the Imhof Prayerbook, from 1511, was 2011's top book price, selling for $2,574,000.
Also of note, Jane Austen's unfinished novel, written in 1803, The Watsons, fetched $1,599,132. Another kind of manuscript, the 1976 founding contract of Apple Computer, signed by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ron Wayne, went for $1,594,500.