Book printed in 1640 to be displayed in St. Louis

Monday, September 9, 2013 | 4:20 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — A book of Puritan psalms produced in 1640 will be on display in St. Louis on Friday before it goes on sale at an auction, where it is expected to sell for millions of dollars.

The Bay Psalm Book was the first book made in what would become the United States and only 11 copies of it still exist, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. It will be on display Friday at the St. Louis Mercantile Library on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus as part of a national tour before the auction.

David Redden, of auction house Sotheby's in New York, expects the leather-bound book to sell for between $15 million and $30 million, which would be a record for a single book.

"I call it the most famous book in America nobody knows about," Redden said.

To increase awareness, Sotheby's is sending the 373-year-old book on a 12-city tour.

"It's an elegant old Puritan book," said John Hoover, the Mercantile's executive director. "It excites me to no end as a rare book librarian."

The Mercantile Library, the oldest library in continuous operation west of the Mississippi River, was asked to be part of the tour because of its previous work with New York auction companies, Hoover said.

The last time a Bay Psalm Book was auctioned was in 1947, when it sold for $151,000, a record at the time for a book sold at public auction.

The Nov. 26 auction copy is one of two owned by the Old South Church in Boston, which is selling it to raise money for maintenance on the historic church and to fund its work.

Redden said the book is the only item being sold Nov. 26 and he expects the event to be over in less than five minutes.

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