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Book News: 1640 Psalm Book Nets $14.2 Million At Auction

NPR | Nov. 27, 2013 6:30 a.m.

Contributed By:

Annalisa Quinn

A copy of the Bay Psalm Book, which was printed in 1640 in Massachusetts. It was sold Tuesday at Sotheby's in New York.

A copy of the Bay Psalm Book, which was printed in 1640 in Massachusetts. It was sold Tuesday at Sotheby's in New York.

Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • A 1640 book of psalms translated from Hebrew sold for a record breaking $14.16 million at auction on Tuesday. Known as the Bay Psalm Book, it is the first book published in English in what is now the U.S. There are only 10 other known copies. The buyer was David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group, who says he plans to loan the book out to museums. The Rev. Nancy Taylor of the Boston church that sold the book, explained the decision to sell it in a press release last year: “We want to take this old hymn book from which we literally sang our praises to God and convert it into doing God’s ministry in the world today.” The preface to the book — which can be viewed online — describes it as “a plaine and familiar translation of the psalms and words of David into english metre.” The translators wrote that they did not “smooth our verses with the sweetnes of any paraphrase, and soe have attended Conscience rather then Elegance, fidelity rather then poetry in translating the hebrew words into english language, and Davids poetry into english meetre that soe wee may sing in Sion the Lords songs of prayse according to his owne will.”
  • Cheryl Strayed, Wally Lamb, Dave Berry, Sherman Alexie, James Patterson and hundreds of other authors will volunteer as booksellers this Saturday, known as “Small Business Saturday.” In an open letter published in September, Alexie asked other “book nerds” to volunteer, writing that “now is the time to be a superhero for independent bookstores.”
  • Publisher’s Weekly has named Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, together with the ABA’s board, its “Person of the Year.” Publisher’s Weekly praised the ABA “for their role in leading the resurgence of independent bookselling.”
  • Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life led the all-female shortlist for the Costa Award’s Novel category. The prize, which honors “the most outstanding books of the year written by authors based in the U.K. and Ireland,” also announced its shortlists in the categories of first novel, biography, poetry and children’s book.
  • In The New York Times, Adam Kirsch and Rivka Galchen wonder why Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem remains controversial 50 years later. Kirsch writes, “Arendt, who fled the Nazis in 1933 and again after they conquered France in 1940, was reckoning in this book with the evil that had claimed the lives of millions of her fellow Jews, and damaged her own life as well. To counter this injury with a display of pride was for her a moral imperative, a way of showing her utter contempt for Nazism. Indeed, the whole idea of the ‘banality of evil’ is at bottom a way of denying Nazism any glamour or substance, of relegating it to the realm of nonbeing.”
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