'Descendant' of $14M Psalm Book headlined Pequot Library sale
Updated 12:07 pm, Sunday, December 1, 2013
The first book published in North America became one of the most expensive printed texts in literary history this month when it sold at auction in New York for $14.2 million.
Holiday shoppers also could have acquired a copy of the "The Bay Psalm Book," published in 1862 -- unlike the 1640 edition auctioned by Old South Church in Boston -- for a bargain-basement sale price at the 2nd annual Pequot Library Black Friday/Saturday Book Sale this weekend.
"Ours is much more modestly priced (at $4,000)," said Doug Fried, chairman of the Pequot Library book sales.
The sale opened Friday with a line of about 50 people snaking halfway across the front lawn of the historic Southport library. They opted for that line rather than fight crowds gathered in front of shopping malls for the busiest shopping day of the year. The sale continued Saturday.
"I don't really care about that stuff. We love to read," said Elise Walsh of Fairfield, who said the library sale offered a great opportunity to spend time with her children Emma, 7, and Brenden, 5.
"Nothing better than a book cradled under your arm," said shopper and bibliophile Frank Ross of Wallingford.
Although the book lovers were orderly, unlike some frenzied shoppers battling for sales merchandise across the nation, they were anxious for the doors to open. As the bells of a local church chimed, one man said: "It's 9 o'clock. Let us in."
The first man through the doors was Paul Lorenzen of East Hampton. He reserved the prime spot by showing up at 8 a.m. Thursday morning and leaving a large plastic bin to hold his spot. Others arrived three hours before the two-day sale began. Some braved the nippy temperature in line; others waited in their cars for the official start.
Inside, people hunched over long tables sifting through thousands of selections of new and "gently used" books, divided into dozens of categories like art and photography, art history, holiday cookbooks, gardening, travel, mysteries, and children's books. There were also CDs, DVDs, audio books, posters and games.
Among the special, signed books available is "View from the Summit" autographed by the Mount Everest pioneer and author, Sir Edmund Hillary, priced at $125.
The first sale was made 10 minutes after the event started Friday, and a steady stream of people continued to show up throughout the day, many buying books as holiday gifts for others and themselves.
"It's an alternative to shopping in the malls and we have some good deals," said Stephanie Weaver, a 20-year volunteer at the Pequot Library.
"It was so successful (last year) we're doing it again. We primarily focus on items that would be gift-quality: coffee table books, signed copies, special books as well as fiction and non-fiction," said Martha Lord, the Pequot Library's executive director.
"They're great gifts for people. I found great stocking stuffers," said Lauren Risley of Fairfield, who attends all three of the Pequot's book sales each year.
Fried said a few people inquired about the library's Bay Psalm Book, which is not as old as the one that recently sold for more than $14 million. The library's copy is one of 50 copies that were printed in 1862. Back then, the original owner, Andrew Wight, purchased it for $20.
"Our book is important for Bible collectors," Fried said, and it's rare that such a book comes up for sale. Most copies are owned by museums and universities," he said.
Library staff had considered keeping it for the Pequot's permanent collection, but there is a similar book in its holdings and, given the financial constraints under which the library is operating, they have decided to sell it. If the book had not sold by the conclusion of the book sale, Fried said the library may have an auction house handle it.
Proceeds from the sale support the Pequot Library's more than 350 annual programs.
For more information about the Pequot Library, call 203-259-0346 or visit www.pequotlibrary.org. To inquire about the Book of Psalms, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.