Thursday, December 2, 2010


Often, in times of (hmm) pococurantistic whimsical internet jaunts, I will aimlessly click around
websites I am visiting, one I frequent, abebooks, lists their top sales of rare books each month:(

[Last month’s most expensive sale, a rare Islamic book about the work and words of the prophet Muhammad, was our sixth most expensive sale in the history of AbeBooks and our biggest sale for five years. The $45,000 book is around 800 years old and details Hadith methodology. Hadith are collections of narrations dedicated to explaining the prophet’s actions and words. They are important tools in understanding the Qu'ran and Islamic law, and have existed for more than 1,200 years. They are a cornerstone of Islamic life. Muhammad died in 632 A.D and his traditions were passed on orally for several centuries before the Hadith were formally recorded. By the 9th century, there were many different versions of the Hadith and today the Shia and Sunni denominations have different ones.]

This led me to pondering what the most expensive manuscript floating about would be...I remember seeing a rare, good condition first ed. of The Hobbit, Tolkein had written a note inside the book to the woman who had been his assistant (?) and signed it, it had been described as the single most sought after edition of this most popular novel. But then what about Anne Frank's diary...the original manuscript, perhaps invaluable and surely not ever for sale? Or an ancient religious text...dead sea scrolls, book of Kells...

But then I found it. In 1994 an individual named Bill Gates dropped a record breaking $30.8 million on Leonardo da Vinci's scientific doodlings the Codex Leicester. Infact it was Gates who renamed the manuscript so, as it had since 1980 been called the Codex Hammer after the industrialist, Armand Hammer, the previous owner. The Codex provides a rare insight into the inquiring mind of the definitive Renaissance artist, scientist and thinker as well as an exceptional illustration of the link between art and science and the creativity of the scientific process. The manuscript does not take the form of a single linear script, but is rather a mixture of Da Vinci's observations and theories on astronomy; the properties of water, rocks, and fossils; air, and celestial light.

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