From a £39,000 record of flaura to the Lindisfarne Gospels: six of the World's most beautiful historic books

By Culture24 Reporter | 11 January 2015

From gospels to medieval hunting, six of the most striking books on sale for a princely sum

Mark Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands

A photo of an ancient book
© The Royal Collection Trust
Produced in four leather volumes, this is the first illustrated record of the flora and fauna of North America, as observed by English naturalist and explorer Mark Catesby on a trip to America in 1712.

The 263 watercolour drawings are part of the Royal Collection, and the first facsimile edition is worth a cool £39,500.


The Lindisfarne Gospels (8th Century)

A photo of an ancient book
© Addison Publications
With their breathtaking colours and a vast quantity of detailed ornamental decoration, the Lindisfarne Gospels are among the outstanding artistic creation of the early Middle Ages.

The book was written, illustrated and illuminated by Bishop Eadfrith of Lindisfarne in the five years preceding his death – probably between 715 and 720 AD. The book contains the first version of the Gospels in English, and costs (including Victorian binding) a biblical £16,950.


The Highgrove Florilegium (2009)

A photo of an ancient book
© A G Carrick
The first Florilegium in the United Kingdom inspired by a royal patron. For seven years leading botanical artists from around the world were invited to paint examples of the plants and trees growing in The Prince of Wales’ and The Duchess of Cornwall’s garden at Highgrove in Gloucestershire.

For those with £12,950 to spare, each copy is signed by the Prince.


The Peterborough Psalter (14th century)

A photo of an ancient book
© Addison Publications
The Peterborough Psalter was commissioned by Geoffrey of Crowland, the abbot of Peterborough, and presented to Pope John XXII in around 1318.

With its suave figures, delicately incised gold patterns and painterly modelling of draperies and faces, this volume preserves the work of one of the finest English illuminators of the early 14th century, chiming in at £6,000.

Gaston Phoebus – The Hunting Book  (15th Century)

A photo of an ancient book
© Addison Publications
Worth a shade under £3,000, this facsimile manuscript of one of the most beautiful and bestselling texts of the late Middle Ages was written and illustrated in Paris around 1407.

Gaston Phoebus’ work is the most famous record of medieval hunting, described by curators as a “fascinating” piece of cultural history.


The Book of Kells (9th Century)

A photo of an ancient book
© Addison Publications
The Book of Kells manuscript, which eclipsed all other artistic and cultural achievements of the early Middle Ages, was created in around AD 800 by Irish monks to glorify the life of Christ.

The £12,500 facsimile provides a perfect replica of all 680 pages of the manuscript.

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Three places to find amazing books in

Braintree District Museum
The current exhibition, Castle Hedingham and Magna Carta, looks at the story of Robert de Vere, the 3rd Earl of Oxford and baron of Castle Hedingham who was one of the 25 barons who forced the Great Charter on King John, listed as one of the 25 surieties of the charter. Until January 30 2016.

British Library, London
See Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript for Alice in Wonderland, with hand-drawn illustrations, alongside stunning editions by Mervyn Peake, Ralph Steadman, Leonard Weisgard, Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dali and others. Until April 17 2016.

Seven Stories, National Centre for Children’s Books, Newcastle
A treasure trove of original artwork and manuscripts records the creative process involved in making a children's book and provides an insight into the working lives of authors and illustrators.
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