The Magnificent Rarity: The Most Expensive Book in the World $30.8 million

Books have long been treasured as vessels of knowledge, culture, and art. Some books, however, transcend their contents to become objects of immense value, sought after by collectors and bibliophiles around the globe. In the world of rare books, one title reigns supreme as the most expensive book ever sold: “Codex Leicester” by Leonardo da Vinci.

The Codex Leicester: A Glimpse into the Mind of a Genius

“Codex Leicester,” also known as the “Codex Hammer,” is a scientific manuscript written by the Italian Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci around 1508-1510. The book is named after its first known owner, Thomas Coke, the Earl of Leicester, who acquired it in the 18th century. This masterpiece of intellectual curiosity is a remarkable insight into the mind of one of history’s greatest geniuses.

The Codex Leicester is filled with Leonardo’s handwritten notes, diagrams, and sketches, covering a wide range of topics such as astronomy, geology, hydrodynamics, and various natural phenomena. It is a testament to Leonardo’s insatiable curiosity and his pioneering spirit in exploring the world through observation and scientific inquiry.

The Most Expensive Book Sale in History

In 1994, “Codex Leicester” made history when it was purchased by none other than the legendary Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. At the time, Gates acquired this extraordinary manuscript for a staggering $30.8 million at an auction. This record-breaking purchase earned the “Codex Leicester” a place in the Guinness World Records as the most expensive book ever sold.

Gates, a known admirer of Leonardo’s work and a passionate collector of rare books and manuscripts, recognized the immense historical and scientific significance of the Codex Leicester. He subsequently digitized the manuscript and made it available online for the world to study and appreciate.

Why is the Codex Leicester So Valuable?

Several factors contribute to the remarkable value of the Codex Leicester:

  1. Leonardo’s Genius: The manuscript represents the work of one of history’s most celebrated polymaths, making it a piece of intellectual history.
  2. Limited Availability: The Codex Leicester is one of the relatively few surviving manuscripts by Leonardo, adding to its rarity.
  3. Scientific Insights: The content of the Codex Leicester includes groundbreaking observations and theories that were ahead of its time, demonstrating Leonardo’s extraordinary intellect.
  4. Historical Significance: The manuscript provides a glimpse into the Renaissance era, a pivotal period in the development of science, art, and culture.
  5. Association with Prominent Owners: Previous owners, including the Earl of Leicester and Bill Gates, have added to the book’s prestige.


The Codex Leicester stands as a testament to human curiosity, ingenuity, and the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Its record-breaking sale price is a reflection of the book’s historical significance, the brilliance of its creator, and its enduring appeal to collectors and enthusiasts. While “Codex Leicester” may hold the title of the most expensive book in the world, its true value lies in the timeless wisdom and insight it continues to offer to those who explore its pages and digital representations.

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