[GUTENBERG] NEWTON, A. EDWARD. A Noble Fragment being a leaf of the Gutenberg Bible 1450-1455
. New York: Gabriel Wells, 1921. Containing a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible [Mainz: Printer of the 42-line Bible (Johann Gutenberg) and Johannes Fust, about 1455], consisting of Luke 1:12 to 2:9. Full dark blue morocco, title in gilt on upper cover, covers ruled in blind, publisher's slipcase. 16 x 11 1/2 inches (40 x 29 cm); 8 ff. (including blanks), the Gutenberg leaf 15 3/8 x 11 1/8 inches (39 x 28.5 cm), neatly hinged to a blank following the text. Light wear to the leather spine, which is a little dry, with some evidence of restoration, the slipcase lightly restored, overall sound; the Gutenberg leaf within with the usual minor finger soil, three tiny marginal spots, overall in sound condition. With the bookplate of Nelson Doubleday on the front pastedown.
The leaves in Wells's Noble Fragment originate from the copy of the Gutenberg Bible whose lineage is the Court Library of Mannheim--Royal Library of Munich--Robert Curzon, 1810-1870, 14th Baron Zouche (from 1870)--Mary Cecil Curzon Frankland, 1877-1965, 17th Baroness Zouche (from 1917), sold via Sotheby's, 9 November 1920, lot 70--Frank Sabin--Gabriel Wells. This was missing 50 of its 643 leaves, some of the remaining leaves had the lower margins cut away, and a number of leaves had losses where illuminations had been extracted. Given the condition, Wells decided that it would make fiscal sense to sell it by the leaf (and where possible, by complete books of the Bible), less of a heresy in 1921 than this seems today. This action enabled the New York Public Library copy to be brought to a state closer to completion, as with Wells' gift of leaves only one leaf remained lacking from its copy. Other institutions were similarly able to perfect or partially perfect defective copies, and for a price of $150, many private collectors were able to own a page of this, the Editio Princeps of the Bible and the first substantial book printed from moveable type.
The leaf from Luke in this copy is two columns, 42 lines printed in Gutenberg's type 1:140G. It is rubricated in red and blue (initial F of the second chapter with a two-line initial in red), headlines of alternate red-blue lombards, a chapter number of alternate red-blue elements, and red capital strokes. The Latin text contains Luke's account of the birth of John the Baptist, the Annunciation, and the first part of the Nativity including the birth of Jesus; in short, Luke's familiar account of the events leading up to, and including, the birth of Jesus. A more compelling single leaf from the first printed Bible is hard to imagine. For the Gutenberg Bible see Goff B-526; Hain 3031*; GW 04201 etc.
C The Nelson Doubleday, Jr. Collection
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