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Prominent skeptic Michael Shermer has written up an account of James Randi’s 82nd birthday party over at SkepticBlog. And what a night it was – Randi was joined by skeptical heavyweights Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Paul Kurtz, Ray Hyman and others for dinner and an evening at the personal library of a “good friend of Randi and benefactor of the JREF”…

…who kindly allowed us to peruse his collection of some of the rarest books in the history of science, along with other spectacular items of considerable interest. It is, in short, the finest collection I have ever seen anywhere in the world. Any single volume on any of the shelves would be an item worthy of possession as one’s most cherished belonging, and here there were hundreds of such treasures.

Along with ancient papyrus pages from The Egyptian Book of the Dead, German Enigma machines, and not one but two first editions of Mein Kampf personally signed by Hitler (to Goebbels and Goering no less), was the jewel of the collection: the Archimedes Palimpsest. This medieval prayer book conceals an ancient scientific treasure – it was written over the top of a treatise published by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes.

The Archimedes Palimpsest sold at auction in 1998 for $2.2 million, reportedly to an anonymous billionaire in the IT industry, only ever referred to as ‘the owner of the Archimedes Palimpsest’ or simply “Mr. B”. The German newspaper Der Spiegel reported in 1997 that insiders “are now certain that it was Jeffrey Bezos, the founder and CEO of online book retailer Amazon.”

Regardless of who this private individual is, I’m sure those skeptical luminaries, with their love of science and truth, will now spread the word about who the actual owner of the Archimedes Palimpsest is…

Update: Based on documents from the recent court case involving Randi’s partner ‘Jose Alvarez’, and a little further digging, I now believe that the individual who hosted Randi’s birthday gathering probably wasn’t Jeff Bezos, but was actually longtime JREF supporter Richard ‘Rick’ Adams, who is known to be a collector of important historical documents and books.