Lot 12
  • 12

Bible. Latin.

20,000 - 30,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Basel: Johann Froben, 27 June 1491
  • Ink, paper, leather
Chancery octavo (157 × 106 mm). Collation: [π4 (title-page, Froben’s Exhortatio to readers, mnemonic verses, Summarium Biblie);  a-y A-Z8 (Old Testament); 1-108 114 2118 (New Testament; colophon, 211/8v); A-E8 (Index of Hebrew Names; Translatores Biblie, Modi intelligendi scripturam)]: 493 of 496 leaves, lacking only the blanks a1, E7-8. 2 columns, 56 lines + headline Types 1:86G (titling), 2:62G (side notes), 3:44G (text). Initial spaces with guide letters. Fully rubricated in red and blue (Alternating lombard initials, underlining, capital strokes), the initials of a2r and 4r of red-blue interlock with pen flourishing. Scattered marginal manuscript notes
Nineteenth-century sheep with vertical filleted bands, at front a vellum manuscript bifolium from an earlier binding (liturgical, including Psalms 23-24), spine lacking, covers loose. Slight paper loss on some fore-edges where index tabs were removed. A few of the marginalia just shaved, but a larger than average copy with paper in fresh condition.


Mayer Sulzberger, 1843-1923 (bookplate)


Goff B-592; Hain 3107*; GW 4269; BMC III 789 (IA.38783); BSB-Ink B-466; Bod-inc B-300

Catalogue Note

The first Bible printed in octavo format, and the first book signed by Johann Froben, founder of a great printer’s dynasty and friend of Erasmus. The size of Froben’s Bible is that of a large number of thirteenth-century Bibles written in Paris and elsewhere, and Froben may be seen as reviving, in print, a handy, portable Vulgate that could be used as a personal copy. Froben’s exhortatio emphasized the novelty, writing “that in view of its small size it would better be called a mini-Bible than a Bible” (aptius Bibliola quam Biblia dici poterit). To keep the number of leaves in single-volume compass, Froben printed the text with an unusually small but very clear gothic fount, in today’s nomenclature of 7-point size. The octavo format clearly responded to a new market: Froben printed another edition in 1495 (Goff B-598), and there followed three Italian octavo Vulgate editions of 1492, 1496, and 1497, as well as Gershom Soncino’s famous Hebrew Bible, Brescia, 1494 (Goff Heb-10).