Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday Search Challenge (5/30/12): How much did it cost?

As readers of this column doubtlessly know, Barbara Gordon was bringing a book to the inhabitant of Wayne Manor when she realized that librarians could also become superhero crimefighters.  

The question of the day, though, isn't about superheros (although I truly believe librarians are superheros), but is about that book she was bringing to Mr. Wayne. 

How much did it cost to print the original 1600 1700 copies of that book in the first press run, according to the printer? 

By the way, I'm looking for the cost in the original currency units.  (You'll know what I mean when you find the price.)  

I like this question as it links the Golden Age of Comic Books to American history in an interesting and unusual way.  

Search on! 

(Note:  Sorry about that... my mistake in transcribing.  The first printing was 1700 copies, NOT 1600!)  


  1. As a librarian, I loved this challenge and the different paths I took to find the answer.

    Since comic books almost always go hand-in-hand with computer nerds (present company included), I figured that there had to be a DC wiki type page and of course there was ( Here, I looked up Barbara Gordon who I already knew as Batgirl. In her entry, I clicked on the link to her first appearance which was Detective Comics #359. It is here that I found out that the book she delivered was rare.

    Doing a search for rare book "barbara gordon" was my next step (and I realize now I could have done that initially, but I like exploring). The fifth hit was a Wiki article about the Bay Psalm Book which mentions that it was the book Gordon brought to Bruce Wayne, etc. The article also mentions that it was published by Steven Day (or Daye). It was the first book published in the New World. Cool!

    So my next step was to do a search for "bay psalm book" steven day cost and couldn't find the answer. However, in my searching I found a page that mentions that the original title is The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre. Yoinks!

    This led me to do a search for that plus original cost. This got me a result in Google books which is basically a version of the book with an introduction that gave me the answer. The cost for publishing 1700 copies (not the 1600 you mentioned) was 33 pounds, used 116 reams of paper at a cost of 29 pounds, and the book was sold for 20 pence.

    All in all, this took me about 15, maybe 20 minutes and I loved every second of it.

  2. Answer: 33 pounds sterling (in the year 1640)


    [ how did Barbara Gordon become batgirl ] led to
    This page named the edition in which Batgirl debuted, DC #359 "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl" (Jan 1967)

    [ Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl ] image search
    I noticed several hits from so I refined my search hoping for a page scan that would yield a clue.

    [ Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl ] image search led to:
    This scan show Barbara Gordon referring to a valuable book she intends to deliver to Wayne Manor. The scan also contains a note from the editor indicating that in 1947 a copy sold for $151,000 at auction.

    [ 1947 book $151000 auction ] search results gave title as "Bay Psalm Book"

    [ "bay psalm" book bruce wayne ] led to
    Page provided basic info about the book.

    [ "Bay Psalm book" original printing cost ] search results reveal that the original printing was 1700, not 1600, copies.

    [ "Bay Psalm Book" original 1700 copies cost ] led to
    A discussion on this page states, "The first edition of the Bay Psalm Book cost the printer, Stephen Daye, a total of £33 to produce 1,700 copies," but does not give any sources.

    [ "Bay Psalm Book" first edition printer cost Stephen Daye ] led to
    This ascii-only text confirms the numeric cost but did not include the monetary units.

    [ deposition made by Stephen Daye in 1655 ] led to a match in Google Books
    This is a reprint of the Bay Psalm Book" with introductory text that confirms that the price of "33" was in pounds sterling.

    Time: 20 minutes

  3. First search [batgirl origin] to get ["The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl"] to get that shows a panel mentioning the book but not the title.

    Search for a phrase from the panel ["1947 a perfect copy of this book"] to get the name of the book "The Bay Psalm Book"

    Search [Bay Psalm Book] to get printed by Stephen Daye.

    Search [Stephen Daye" "cost to print "Bay Psalm book" ] to find text that matched in to get Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society

    Search ["Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society" "daye" 1638] in Google Books to find

    Scanning through this was a nightmare so I'm guessing it cost around 141 lb. based on this snippet from the above book

  4. I'd say the cost was 300 acres of land. It was the first book printed and bound in New England called "Bay Psalm Book". Had a little trouble between the comic and the TV show w.r.t. a book reference. Ultimately determined from the comic, a perfect copy of the book was sold in 1947 for $151,000. Took about 20 minutes.

  5. This was right up my alley. Being a lover of all things Batman, I instantly thought the fastest way to find out the name of the book was to look into my digitized archive of every Batman comic to find Detective Comics 359, which is the debut of Batgirl. Instead, to have more of a challenge, I didn't. Instead I searched for "Batgirl debut" and got to wikipedia - which got me to the comic book number, but it didn't say anything about a rare book.

    By searching for Detective Comics #359 summary I found this summary at which gave me the book's name: "The Bay Psalm Book".

    I found the printer's name easy enough with a wikipedia search - which also mentioned Batgirl.

    But after that, it took a bit. I read the fronstpiece of the book on thinking the info might be there, no luck. I did a google book search for Rare American Books and found a book called "Early Boston Booklsellers", which, while interesting, didn't have the info I needed.

    Then I figured I would try and find an annotated edition, which might have scholarly notes. I did a search to find different versions of the book, with just a file type pdf search on google for "Bay Psalm Book", which led me to, and on page viii, it breaks down Stephen Daye's costs - 33 pounds for the printing, 29 pounds for the paper, for a total of 62 pounds.

    However, all sources that I found talked about there being 1700 copies in the first edition, not 1600. So, just on the safe side, if you're being tricky, the cost to publish 1600 copies would have been roughly 58 pounds, 6 shillings and 7 pence.

    Also, Barbara Gordon as Batgirl isn't part of the Golden Age, but rather, of the Silver Age of Comics.

  6. It cost 33 pounds to print the Bay Psalm Book.
    This is the first book printed in North America.

    I searched for 'Barbara Gordon rare book' and found an image scan from the comic book.
    The editor (of the comic book) notes that a copy was auctioned for $151,000 in 1947.
    A search for 'rare book auction 1947 151000' resulted in finding the name of the book.
    I found the printing cost via a Google Book search.

  7. Was I supposed to post my path to the answer? If so: google [origin story batgirl]; searched for a scan of Detective #359 Jan 67; google book search of The Bay Psalm book: being a facsimile reprint of the first edition. Found in forward, "From a deposition made by Stephen Daye in 1655 m the suit brought by Glover's heirs against Henry Dunster president of Harvard College we learn that the cost of printing the seventeen hundred copies was 33 pounds"

  8. This took a while (25 minutes or so), swirling around reading up on the hsitory of Batgirl. thigns started to come together when I got the edition of Detective Comics where the delviery of the book occurs (#359) by searching 'Batgirl origin'. from there, "Detective comics 359 "Rare book"" lead me to a wikipedia page for the Bay Psalm book. There is some uncertainty about whether the original run was 1700 or 1600 copies (more sources favouring 1700).
    Searching Google Books for 'Bay Psalm book Steven Day' lead to a reference to a court deposition in the book "Common Prayer: The Language of Public Devotion in Early Modern England By Ramie Targoff" I have the cost at 33 pounds but don't have a second reference to confirm it

  9. £33

    Googled "Barbara Jordan", found out she was Batgirl. Wiki said she debuted in 1967.

    Googled "batgirl 1967 brought book" and found the TV obscurities website.
    This gave me the name of the villian she faced, Killer Moth.

    Googled Killer Moth, the Wiki page told me the name of the episode.

    Googled "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl" and "brought book" and the 2nd hit was the Bay Psalm Book Wiki page.

    Googled "Bay Psalm Book" + history + cost + print and got
    A Facebook page dedicated to 18th century bibles.

    "A printing press was brought over to Cambridge specially from Holland, and 1,700 copies of the new Psalter were printed at a total cost of £33 for the lot, and the books were sold at 20 Pence each."

  10. Finding the name of the book was the most time consuming part of the search for me. Once I'd found that, I was led to a Facebook group (of all things!) called 18th Century Bibles, where I came across this gem:

    "The first edition of the Bay Psalm Book cost the printer, Stephen Daye, a total of £33 to produce 1700 copies, using 116 reams of paper costing £29."

    So yes, I'm agreeing with most other posters that the cost was £33.00.

  11. I followed a pretty similar procedure to most people, although it took me about 30 minutes, mostly because I spent a lot of time learning about Barbara Gordon, who I previously knew nothing about.

    I found various pages talking about her, but I couldn't find anything talking about her and a book or what she had done as a librarian. I eventually started looking for "Barbara Gordon origin book" and found the reference to Detective Comics #359. Then I started looking around for an online copy of it and looked in various sources before giving up and just searching for Detective Comics #359 book. I found the synopsis on and it talked about her giving taking a rare book to Wayne in her origin story.

    So I searched for Barbara Gordon rare book and I found the Wiki article about the Bay Psalm Book which mentions that it was the book Gordon brought to Bruce Wayne, etc.

    So then I searched for Bay Psalm book 1700 copies (I found pages referencing your mistake as to the number of copies earlier). I didn't find any cost information so I added cost. Still didn't see anything so I just looked for Bay Psalm Book cost and I found which told me that it cost a total of 33 pounds, including 29 pounds for 116 reams of paper.

  12. Took about 10 mins:

    1.barbara gordon book wayne manor librarian brought me to

    2. This was the longer part. Did a number of searches including bay psalm book cost, bay psalm book printing cost, and eventually bay psalm book 1700 copies cost. The answer was in the search results from a Facebook page: