The Most Expensive Book

Moonfire by Norman Mailer
Moonfire by Norman Mailer

I just finished reading the book “MoonFire: The Epic Journey of Apollo 11” by Norman Mailer. It’s a beautiful book published by Taschen. Taschen publishes some of the best photo books in the world.

This was the first Norman Mailer book I’ve read. I’ve been very tempted to read some of his other books, such as “The Naked and the Dead“, but I lack the time. I’m already about a dozen books and a dozen magazines behind.

This book, “Moonfire”, was originally serialized in Life magazine under the title “Of a Fire on the Moon”. It tells the story of the Apollo 11 mission from the point of view of a reporter named “Aquarius” (also the name of the Apollo 13 LM, used as a lifeboat after the explosion). The writing is quite poetic, although a little less technical than I was hoping for (as an aerospace nerd).

When I first saw the book at Chapters Indigo I looked up the book on the Taschen web site.

That’s where I discovered the most expensive book in the world.

When I was a teenager, my mother owned a bookstore in New Minas called “Between Covers”. I worked there some evenings and weekends until my first years of university. Once, a dentists’ wife ordered the complete The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for her husband. It was 12 volumes and cost a few thousand dollars (in 1988; now on Amazon.ca: $10,251 Cdn). That was pretty damn expensive. I has also never heard of a dictionary that required more than one volume before. When the full set arrived, it stood multiple feet high.

However, Taschen has trumped the OED with limited editions of the “Moonfire” book.

My copy was less than $30, which is a good price for such a large book.

More expensive than the basic edition is the Cdn $1,360 edition that includes a framed print of Buzz Aldrin on the moon – the iconic photo of the Apollo program. There are only 1957 copies of this edition available. It weighs 12 kilograms, four times heavier than the edition I have.

Not available on Chapters or Amazon are the 12 “Lunar Rock” editions. These include an actual piece of moon rock. Since NASA is not going to give up any of its extremely valuable collection, and there have been no private lunar return missions yet, how did Taschen manage to do this? They used lunar meteorites. When large meteors impact the moon (not slowed by any atmosphere), some of the molten rock debris from the impact will actually have enough energy to escape the lunar gravity well. The debris, now solidified rock, will most frequently get pulled into the Earth’s gravity well. If the lunar impact debris survives the passage through our atmosphere, it can be collected on the ground as a meteorite.

The 12 editions each includes a lunar meteorite. Each edition is priced by the size of the meteorite. The smallest one was discovered in Algeria and it weighs 1.40 grams, 20% less than a Canadian dime. This edition was priced at €60,000 (Cdn $81,000).

The top of the line edition includes a 348 gram (1/3 of a kilogram) meteorite found in Morocco. It costs a jaw-dropping €480,000 (Cdn $648,000)!!!

I could buy a huge house and a Lamborghini for that. All for the cost of a book and a rock.

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