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expensive manuscripts


A list of the ten most valuable handwritten manuscripts ever sold

From illuminated religious manuscripts to the ideas of genius Leonardo da Vinci, we take a look at the world's ten most expensive handwritten manuscripts.

10) The Tales of Beedle the Bard - J.K. Rowling

Produced in 2007 by Harry Potter author J.K Rowling, this 157-page handwritten manuscript of related fairy stories was one of seven created. Six were gifted to the writer’s close friends, and the seventh was sold for charity to the online retail company Amazon for $3.98 million. (Image: Sotheby's)

9) The Monypenny Breviary

A 15th-century French illuminated manuscript made for William Monypenny of Ardwenny in Scotland, who was an abbot in France, by Jean and Jacquelin de Montlucon. Sold at Sotheby’s in July 2000 for £3,303,500 ($4,979,650)

8) Deeds of Sir Gillion de Trazegnies in the Middle East

A medieval romance telling the story of a crusading knight, the manuscript was originally owned Louis de Gruuthuse (1422 – 1492), one of Europe’s wealthiest book collectors. Sold at Sotheby’s in December 2012 for £3,849,250 ($6,199,603). (Image: Sotheby's)

7) Histoire de ma vie - Giacomo Casanova.

The handwritten autobiography of the Venetian adventurer and famous lover Casanova, originally written in 1797 and first published in 1820. The original manuscript, passed by Cassanova on his deathbed to his sister’s son-in-law Carlo Angiolini and later sold to publishers, was purchased by the National Library of France in 2010 for approximately €7 million ($9.06 million).

6) The Gospels of Henry the Lion - Order of Saint Benedict

This 266 page book containing the text of the four gospels, with 50 full page illustrations and decorated with gold leaf, was commissioned by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony in 1188. Sold at Sotheby’s in 1983 to the West German government for $12.4 million, a then-record price for a single work of art. (Image: Sotheby's)

5) Rothschild Prayerbook

The world’s most valuable illuminated manuscript, created circa 1505 for a member of the imperial court in the Netherlands and later owned by the famous Rothschild family. Sold at Christie’s in January 2014 for $13,605,000. (Image: Christie's)

4) St Cuthbert Gospel of St John

This pocket-sized 7th century volume, Europe’s oldest book, was buried in the tomb of St Cuthbert in the year 698 and rediscovered during Viking raids in 1104. It was displayed at Durham Cathedral until the 16th century, and later owned by the Lancashire Jesuit school Stonyhurst College. Sold to the British Library in April 2012 for £9 million ($14.3m)

3) The Northumberland Bestiary

A 13th century illustrated manuscript concerning both real and imaginary animals, featuring 112 coloured ink drawings. First sold at auction by the Duke of Northumberland at Sotheby’s in 1990 for $5.8 million. Later bought privately in 2007 by the J. Paul Getty Museum, in a deal estimated at approximately $20 million. (Image: Sotheby's)

2) The Magna Carta

An early 13th century document regarded as one of the foundations of modern law, created to prevent King John abusing his power and giving rights to his subjects under common law. A copy of the manuscript bearing the King’s seal sold at Sotheby’s in December 2007 for $21.3 million.

1) The Codex Leicester - Leonardo da Vinci

A 62-page manuscript written by Leonardo da Vinci during the early 16th century, including his ideas on astronomy, the properties of water, rocks, fossils, air and celestial light. Purchased by Microsoft founder Bill Gates at Christie’s in 1994 for a World Record price of $30.8 million.

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