By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For one day, just today, two exceptionally rare Bay Psalm Books are being exhibited together, at the Rosenbach Museum and Library, 2008 Delancey Place, in center city.

BayPsalmBook2Only 11 of the original 1,700 copies survive anywhere in the world today, according to Rosenbach director Derick Dreher.

“The Bay Psalm book is the first book printed in what is now the United States. It was printed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1640,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

One copy is in the Rosenbach collection, and now it is on view with another copy belonging to the Old South Church in Boston.

The church’s copy is being auctioned by Sotheby’s this November. It’s about the size of a paperback, with black type.

“The paper is very malleable and fresh, as paper from that period was made from paper and linen,” says Selby Kiffer, international senior specialist for books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s.  “We’re out to make it one of the most famous books in the world, just like it is one of the most important in the world, and certainly one of the rarest and most valuable books in the world.”

How much might it fetch at auction?

“Well, our pre-sale estimate is fifteen to thirty million,” Kiffer says.

It will be sold to benefit Old South Church’s mission and ministries.



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