What Not To Gift Part 2 – Expensive Ink and Pricey Poems


by - November 23rd, 2010


It’s that annual Christmas question – what do you buy the person who has everything? How about a copy – in fact, the only copy – of the world’s most expensive book?

Tomas Hartmann, a German writer who calls himself “greatest philosopher of all time,” announced in 2008 he would sell his book. As in book singular. His masterwork of philosophy took thirty years to write, and boiled that wisdom down to just thirteen pages and a price tag of €153 million (about 230 million Australian dollars).

And, lest you be worried that the story is wooden or the prose less than stellar for that sort of price-tag, the author was quick to assure you this was, in fact, a bit of a bargain. At just $17.8m a page, he claimed the book would “answer the three final important questions of humankind in less than three hundred sentences: Where do we come from? Where are we going? And: What is the real task we still have to take on?”

If that seems a little out of your budget, Hartmann also planned to sell just 5,000 copies of his book of philosophical poems at the bargain price of $2,300 each. (However, he did keep a caveat on that stating that if he won a literary award, the price would increase to €1.53 million per book.) I haven’t read the book, as it is unaccountably unavailable in either Boomerang or my local library, but I can take a good stab at the distilled wisdom of Hartmann’s thirty years of philosophical thought.

I have got it down to just eight words and I give to you here – for free – as my little Christmas gift to you all.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

And to think I could have charged $40 million or so a word. And at least my version is easily available. You will have to find out where the copy of the The Task is as Mr Hartmann stopped displaying the book in Dubai in 2009 and my google-fu has proved too weak to find out whether it was sold and how much it actually sold for.

If your enthusiasm for the most expensive book in the world is undaunted but you really don’t have the time to hunt for it, more easily traceable is Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Codex Leicester”. Penned by the Renaissance Man himself, this notebook of original drawings, notes and sketches fetched a cool $30.8 million dollars when it last sold in 1994. You’ll have no issues finding it, although getting an appointment to discuss buying it could be fun – it was snapped up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Less unique but still pricey is Shakespeare’s “First Folio,” a first edition collection of the Bard’s plays. It’s estimated 250 copies remain of the 750 copies published in 1623, and a complete copy broke records in 2006 for being the most expensive book ever sold at auction, going under the hammer for just over US$5m.

If this still sounds a little extreme, you can go for something more modern. The die hard Hobbit fan in your life would probably love a copy of the special 50th anniversary hardback edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings which comes in at just under a hundred dollars, and fashionistas can be pleased for less than a price of some shoes by Avedon Fashion 1944-2000, a photographic compendious of spanning six decades of one of fashion’s most iconic photographers, which will add style to any bookshelf.

Or, of course, there’s always gift vouchers. While I know some people consider them less dramatic than gifts as a present, but I can assure you that a gift voucher that goes into three figures, let alone the million dollar bracket, will definitely make their jaw drop.

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