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Lot number: 41162
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Title: A single leaf from the Gutenberg Bible (quire 7/leaf 8 = vol. I, leaf 68) contains Numeri 7.38 until 8.12.
Published: Mainz, probably in late 1455

Size: 15.4 x 11.2 inches.
39.0 x 28.5 cm.
Colouring: Uncoloured.
Condition:  Royal folio (390 x 285 mm) 2 columns, 42 lines; initial spaces. The leaf includes a Bull’s Head watermark. With rubricator’s headlines (lombard capitals in red and blue alternating), initials, and a large 2-line chapter initial L. Black morocco binding gilt-titled on upper cover (Stikeman), including A. Edward Newton’s accompanying essay, “A Noble Fragment, 1921”.
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The Gutenberg Bible is the first great book printed in Western Europe from movable metal type. It is a monument that marks a turning point in the art of bookmaking and in the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world. The Bible was completed in Mainz, Germany, probably in late 1455.

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.

The text is the Latin translation known as the Vulgate, made by Saint Jerome in the fourth century. The Bible is printed throughout in double columns, with 42 lines to a page for the most part. The capital letters and headings are ornamented by hand in color. The book contains three volumes. Most copies were printed on paper a few on vellum.

The Gutenberg-Bible must have been finished in 1454/55, according to a rubricator's note in the Mazarin copy in Paris. But there is recent evidence that printing began in 1452 and was finished in late 1453/early 1454. The Bible is printed in two volumes, 1284 pages, set in two columns of type (designed in a later Gothic textura, as traditionally used for liturgic texts), 42 lines per column, in an edition of, probably, 35 copies on vellum and 150 copies on paper. Only 31 complete copies have survived.

PROVENANCE: [From the incomplete copy of Maria Elisabeth Augusta von Sulzbach (1721-1794), wife of Karl Theodor, Electoral Prince of the Palatinate, subsequently Electoral Prince of Bavaria (1724-1799); Mannheim Court Library. After Karl Theodor’s death to Munich, Royal Library, which sold it as a duplicate in 1832. - Lateron in the possession of Robert Curzon, 14th baron Zouche (1810-1873); by descent to baroness Zouche of Haryngworth; Sotheby, 9th November 1920 (Zouche sale), n° 70; to Joseph Sabin; sold by him to Gabriel Wells, who broke up the copy, dispersing it in single leaves or larger fragments].

It is not known how many copies were printed, with the 1455 letter citing sources for both 158 and 180 copies.

According to the Gutenberg Museum, a mere 49 known copies of the Gutenberg Bible, less than half of which are complete copies, exist today. Of the 49 extant, more-or-less complete copies of the Gutenberg Bible (12 on vellum, 37 on paper), the copy from the Bavarian State Library is one of only two (along with one copy in the Austrian National Library) in which a table is found as a vestige of the production process.

The Library of Congress copy is printed entirely on vellum,and is one of only three perfect vellum copies known to exist. The others are at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library. ¤

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Item category: Medieval Manuscripts | Printed Leaves

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Item category: Medieval Manuscripts | Printed Leaves

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