A new record was set for the world's most expensive printed book at an auction yesterday. A four-volume copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America went for £7,321,250 at Sotheby's in London, surpassing the previous record of £5,565,110 – held by another copy of the same title – and beating the estimate of £4-£6m. The proud new owner, the London dealer Michael Tollemache, described the work as "priceless".
Known as Audubon's Elephant due to its size – 39in by 26in, large enough to contain life-size illustrations of the birds – it owes its value to its rarity and the quality of the 435 images in its pages. It was completed in 1858 having taken the author 12 years to produce, and only 119 copies still exist.