The Most Expensive New Book?

The Essential Robert-Houdin Elegance EditionTodd Karr and The Miracle Factory have announced the Essential Robert-Houdin Elegance Edition. Limited to 12 copies, advertised as “One of the most lavish magic books ever created!” and “A sound investment for your library.”  Price tag…just $1500 for a few more days, before the price goes up to $1800.

So the questions is – is this the most expensive new book ever offered for sale?

I recently reviewed the Siegfried & Roy book.  Price tag – $695 & Still available

  • ZIMMERMAN, Diana and GOULD, Robert. Siegfried & Roy: Unique in all the world. Los Angeles : Noesis Publishing. 2010. 249 pp. In custom case, with additional materials. Cover | Full Title

That’s not going to beat it.  How about

  • Marshall, Alexander “Sandy”. Beating a Dead Horse: The Life and Times of Jay Marshall. New York: Junto Publishing. 2010. 526 pp. Standard edition. Cover | Full Title

Sure, you can buy the book for $69.95, but why would you do that when a Platinum edition is available for just $1000? Clay H. Shevlin gave a great review of the Platinum edition in Magicol, No. 176 (Aug 2010), saying…well, that the Deluxe edition might not be “worth it”.

Closer…but the Elegance Edition still wins.  Hmmm….still not there.  Let’s try going back a bit.

The Jarrett Book at a steep $5 in 1936, would run you about $76 today, when factoring inflation. Vernon’s $20 manuscript in 1932 would be about $311 today. Jay Ose’s 1963 Hundred Dollar Book…well it was only sold for $5.  Until we get to:

  • Jay, Ricky. The Magic Magic Book. [New York]: Library Fellows of the Whitney Museum of American Art. 1994. Limited edition of 300 copies. Signed by 6 artists and Ricky Jay. Cover | Full Title

Which sold retail for $2500.  Bingo. We have a winner. One wonders if the Whitney 10% membership discount applied. Adjusted for inflation, that $3752.  7 years later, a copy (plus some extras) sold for $2750.  16 Years after publication, a copy sold at the Potter & Potter Herb Zarrow Auction (Lot 157) for $1200 + 20%.  The Lot description from that catalog:

157. Jay, Ricky. The Magic Magic Book. [New York], 1994. Two letterpress printed volumes in publisher’s embossed wraps, housed in a blue cloth slipcase stamped in red and grey. From a limited edition of 300 copies. 4to. Very good condition.


Contributors to this book include William Wegman, Vija Celmins, Jane Hammond, Glenn Ligon, Justen Ladda and Philip Taaffe. One volume is an extended treatise, written by Ricky Jay, on the history of the venerable “blow book”; the second volume is a functional blow book illustrated with artwork created by the contributors. Of the 300 copies issued, only 100 were sold to the general public by the publisher, The Whitney Museum of New York. Laid in to this copy are a prospectus for the publication, and an ALS from Ricky Jay to Herb and Phyllis Zarrow on Jay’s letterhead.


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