Lot 28
  • 28

Bible in Latin

50,000 - 70,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • A leaf from the Gutenberg Bible. [Mainz: Johann Gutenberg and Johann Fust, 1455]
  • paper, ink, leather
Royal folio (391 × 286 mm). A single leaf, being volume I, fo. 88 (quire 9, leaf 8), containing Deuteronomy 6:16-8:15. 2 columns, 42 lines; initial spaces. Handsomely rubricated in red and blue. The leaf includes a Bull’s Head watermark. Edges of leaf red-stained from preceding binding. Black morocco binding gilt-titled on upper cover (Stikeman), including A. Edward Newton’s accompanying essay, A Noble Fragment, 1921. 


Unidentified German convent or church — Court Library of Mannheim — Royal Library of Munich — Robert Curzon, 1810-1870, 14th Baron Zouche, by descent to — Mary Cecil Curzon Frankland, 1877-1965, 17th Baroness Zouche (from 1917), sold via Sotheby’s, 9 November 1920, lot 70 — [Frank Sabin; Gabriel Wells]


Formatting the Word of God 2.1; Goff B-526; GW 4201; BMC I 17 (IC.55); BSB-Ink B-408; Bod-inc B-237. Censuses: De Ricci Mayence 34.53=78; Schwenke 37; Needham P18; Folter 45

Catalogue Note

First edition of the Bible in Latin, and the first substantial European printed book, produced under the temporary partnership of Johann Gutenberg, inventor of European typography, and Johann Fust, a well-off Mainz lawyer. Production of the edition of more than 640 leaves presumably took several years and a team of workmen. The humanist Aeneas Sylvius, Latin secretary of Emperor Fredrick III, saw sample sheets of the Bible at the Imperial diet in Frankfurt am Main, in late October or early November 1454, and again at Wiener Neustatt in March 1455, from where he wrote about the amazing production to his friend Cardinal Carvajal in Rome. Copies were printed in separate issues of paper and vellum, in a total edition of 180 copies, and were widely distributed. Forty-nine copies of varying completeness survive today, as well as a considerable number of leaves of binding waste, particularly of otherwise lost vellum copies. The present leaf comes from an imperfect copy purchased in 1832 from the Munich Royal Library by the English traveller Robert Curzon. It was sold at Sotheby’s in November 1920, and acquired by New York bookdealer Gabriel Wells, who broke it up and sold most of it as single leaves, accompanied by an essay A Noble Fragment by the Philadelphia bibliophile A. Edward Newton, a few integral books being sold as such (Genesis at University of Illinois, Gospel of Matthew at Colgate University, and other).