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Old South Church announces auction house for 1640 Bay Psalm Book

The members of Old South Church in Boston voted last December in overwhelming numbers to transform a treasure — a rare and precious hymn book printed in 1640 — into 21st century ministries.

Old South Church is delighted to report that after careful investigation followed by consultation with the Church Council, the Trustees chose Sotheby's to serve as the auction house for one of our copies of the Bay Psalm Book (The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre). Uniquely qualified for this exceptional sale, the Sotheby's Special Projects team is fully engaged.

The auction is scheduled for November 26, 2013. Sotheby's is excited about weaving the stories of Thanksgiving and the American impulse for independence with the audacious enterprise of publishing in 1640 the first book created and printed in British North America. An enormous undertaking in its day, it is evidence of its editors' and translators' learning, intrepid independence, facility with ancient languages, religious piety and intellectual acumen. The Bay Psalm Book is an iconic American treasure.

Old South Church has launched a dedicated media relations site for the press and the curious. Many thanks to the Church Council for input on the content and tone of this site. Very special thanks to Chris Breen (chair, Communications Committee) and Jackie Geilfuss (member, Communications Committee) for designing, editing and loading the site.

In the course of our due diligence the Trustees consulted the Attorney General's Office, Division of Public Charities confirming a 1978 ruling that the Church has free and clear title to the Bay Psalm Book (Beta Copy) and the right to transform it into ministry. In addition, the Trustees benefited greatly from consultations with our attorneys at Ropes and Gray, media specialists, rare books experts, as well as proposals from and meetings with the world's leading auction houses.

While we are transforming this precious item into 21st century ministries, Old South Church maintains ownership of the Thomas Prince Library containing 2,000 rare books and manuscripts including our primary copy of The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre. We are much blessed.

Read 1640 hymnal believed to be first book printed in US could fetch $30M at auction (Associated Press)