Victoria-based online book marketplace AbeBooks reports the most expensive book sale in its 19-year history was made last month. A 1765 Italian ornithology book, the title of which is translated and shortened to A Natural History of Birds, sold for $191,000. The book contains illustrations by Violante Vanni and Lorenzo Lorenzi with text by Saverio Menetti, who served as director of Florence’s botanical garden for more than 30 years in the mid-1700s.
According to AbeBooks, the work was commissioned by the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Maria Luisa, and took a decade to complete. The book’s 600 hand-coloured, engraved plates were modelled after dead specimens from an Italian nobleman’s personal bird collection.
Richard Davies, AbeBooks merchandising manager, says on the website:
We’re thrilled to have sold such a valuable book for one of our booksellers. We have been expecting a sale of this magnitude for some time. In 2013 we sold a book worth $60,000 and last year we had two sales of books priced over $40,000. A small number of people are comfortable spending large amounts of money online.
Prior to this, the highest-priced books to sell through the website were a 1937 first edition of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and a 1644 edition of John Milton’s Areopagitica, each of which sold for $65,000.