The online secondhand bookselling broker AbeBooks has published a list of its ten most expensive sales of the year. Among the haul were a first edition of Joseph Story’s Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, which was sold for £8910, a complete first edition of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which went for £17,425, and a rare ‘super deluxe’ 1979 edition of Moby-Dick, which fetched £18,310. Top of the list though is a 12th-century Arabic manuscript of Al Wajaza Fi Sihhat Il Qawl Bi l Ijaz, which was bought for £28,500 – still a long way from the £7.3 million paid for a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America earlier this month, but then AbeBooks isn’t Sotheby’s, and isn’t trying to be.
Meanwhile, Michael Gove’s Department for Education has told Booktrust that its Bookstart, Booktime and Booked Up programmes will no longer receive government funding.
Bookstart currently gives free packs of books to children up until the age of three-years-old through health visitors, children’s centres and library services. Booktime gives a free book pack to reception-aged children, shortly after they start primary school. Booked Up gives a free book to children when they start secondary school from a choice of 13 titles.
It’s hard to see how scrapping these programmes will help Gove meet his alleged goals of improving literacy and ‘closing the widening gap between the richest and the poorest’. As with the bulk of the cuts, the most well off – children whose parents can afford (and want) to buy them books – will be the least affected. Happy Christmas.