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Sale Of Bay Psalm Book Could Fetch Up To $30M For Old South Church04:28
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Old South Church is selling one of its two copies of the rarest book in the world, the Bay Psalm Book, pictured above in the hands of church historian Jeff Makholm. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)
Old South Church is selling one of its two copies of the rarest book in the world, the Bay Psalm Book, pictured above in the hands of church historian Jeff Makholm. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)

One of the world's rarest books will be auctioned off Tuesday by a Boston church that has for centuries kept two copies of the precious pieces of Puritan history.

Sotheby's David Redden says the Bay Psalm Book, which the Old South Church has had in its possession for 300 years, is estimated to sell for up to $30 million.

According to Redden, the Bay Psalm Book was translated and printed in 1640 by the Congregationalist Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who were displeased with the Church of England's translations of the Bible. There are only 11 copies that remain in existence, and the majority of the books reside in America.

"[The printing process] was a massive undertaking. There were 1,700 copies created, 300 pages each, so it was really quite a substantial and complicated process, particularly when you consider that this was the first time a book had been printed in British North America," Redden told WBUR Morning Edition host Bob Oakes.

"It was creating something which was really quite complicated [and] at the same time extremely important for the way in which the Puritans really wanted to be able to worship," he added.

Last year, the proposed sale of the book and other artifacts sparked controversy among the Old South Church's congregation. The church said it needed the money for costly building repairs and to bolster its endowment, but opponents dismissed the idea that the church's future would be in jeopardy without the sale.

A vote was held and a majority supported the sale.

“I think the time has come for the church to make a decision on whether they want to sit on a pile of silver or go out into the community and do the work of the church,” Eleanor Jenson, a member of the church since 1961, told WBUR's Rachel Gotbaum on the day of the vote.

Listen to Bob Oakes' complete interview with David Redden above. 

Earlier:

This program aired on November 26, 2013.

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