Church to sell first book published in North America
BOSTON (WHDH) -- The Old South Church in Boston made the difficult decision to sell the first book published in North America that is still in existence.
The hymnal is so old it actually pre-dates the United States by more than a century.
Members of the old South Church in Boston said it was a difficult decision, but the right decision to sell a piece of their history so they can continue their work at their church.
The Bay Psalm book was the first book published in North America in 1640. It is worth an estimated $20 million.
The church will also sell pieces of silver that date back to the same time.
“It was a hymn book. It was an everyday book. The Congregationalists would come in and sing their praises to God. It’s the psalms of David translated into English in rhyming verse,” said Sr. Minister Nancy Taylor of Old South Church.
“It hasn’t been used since the 1700’s so it’s a museum piece rather than a piece of hymnity today. And the silver we haven’t used since 1939,” said Taylor.
Church members voted overwhelmingly to sell the book to keep the church financially strong so it can continue its mission and pay for millions of dollars of needed repairs to the church. The building itself is historic and dates back to 1875.
“This is really a work of art, this building. And every time there’s a ding, it’s a major incident for us,” said Taylor.
The items are too precious and valuable to keep in the church. The Bay Psalm book is stored at the Boston Public Library and the silver is locked in a vault in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Church members attending an evening service offered their opinion on the selling of the historic book.
“I didn’t feel we should sell off, sell history,” said Janice Graves, a church member.
“They are assets we have that aren’t adding to things and we do have some good uses to put some money to,” said another member, Vicki Newman.
Church officials said the items will likely be auctioned off in six months. It’s a complicated transaction involving lawyers and the attorney general and Sotheby’s Auction House.