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A rare book that brought together William Shakespeare’s plays for the first time sold for a record US$9.97 million at auction in New York.

The 1623 book, published seven years after the Shakespeare’s death, was the first collected edition of his plays, and it’s one of only six known complete copies in private hands, was bought by American private collector Stephan Loewentheil, founder of the 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop on the U.S. east coast.

Auction’s price marked a new world record for any printed work of literature, and smashed the previous high of US$6.16 million for a Shakespeare First Folio that was set in 2001.

The First Folio brought together 36 plays, 18 of which would otherwise not have been recorded. Without its publication there would be no copy of such plays as Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar and The Tempest.

Most of the 235 copies known to exist are incomplete. One, owned by Oxford University, sold for US$4.5m in 2003. Five or six complete versions are believed to be in private hands.