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This article was published 12/4/2013 (3161 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NEW YORK -- A tiny hymnal from 1640 believed to be the first book ever printed in what is now the United States is going up for auction, and it could sell for as much as $30 million.
Only 11 copies of the Bay Psalm Book survive in varying degrees of completeness. Members of Boston's Old South Church have authorized the sale of one of its two copies at Sotheby's Nov. 26.
"It's a spectacular book, arguably one of the most important books in this nation's history," said the Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister and CEO of the church, which was established in 1669. Samuel Adams was a member and Benjamin Franklin was baptized there.
At one time, the church owned five copies of the six-by-five-inch (15.2-centimetre by 12.7-cm) hymnal. One is now at the Library of Congress, another at Yale University and a third at Brown University.
Taylor said the church voted to sell one of its two remaining copies-- both in "excellent condition" -- to increase its grants, ministries and "strengthen our voice in general as a progressive Christian church."
The book was published in Cambridge, Mass., by the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It came just 20 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth.
The hymnal was supposed to be a faithful translation into English of the original Hebrew psalms -- puritans believed selected paraphrases would compromise their salvation. The 1,700 copies were printed on a press shipped over from London.
A yellowed title page, adorned with decorative flourishes, reads: "The Whole Booke of Psalmes, Faithfully Translated into English Metre." At the bottom, it says: "Imprinted 1640."
Historians believe an almanac may have come off the press before the Bay Psalm Book.
But Mark Dimunation, chief of rare books and special collections at the Library of Congress, said the almanac was more of a pamphlet or a broadsheet rather than a book. No copy of the almanac exists today. He notes that in the Americas, in general, books were printed in what is now Mexico as early as 1539.
-- The Associated Press