8 Pages of Gutenberg Bible Expected to Fetch $700,000 at Sotheby’s New York

Sotheby's will auction the Book of Esther from a Gutenberg Bible. Photo: via Sotheby's
Sotheby's will auction the Book of Esther from a Gutenberg Bible.
Photo: via Sotheby's

Into first editions and have half a million to spare? You are in luck then: a section of a 15th century edition of the Gutenberg Bible will be auctioned off on June 19 at Sotheby’s New York, with a presale estimate between $500,000 and $700,000.

The eight-leaf section, taken from a bible printed in 1455, comprises the entire Book of Esther, preceded by the end of the Book of Judith and the prologue of Jerome to Esther, and followed by the prologue of Jerome to Job (see Lost Gospel Attributed to Jesus’s Mother Discovered at Harvard).

The Gutenberg Bible was the first major Western book to be printed using movable type. Printed in Latin, 180 copies were originally produced, of which an estimated 49 still exist.

Although movable type made it possible to reproduce texts relatively quickly and exactly, each Gutenberg Bible has variations, since illuminations and rubrications were made by hand (see Introduction to Medieval Iconography).

Two of the eight pages of the Gutenberg Bible up for auction. <br>Photo: via Sotheby's</br>

Two of the eight pages of the Gutenberg Bible up for auction.
Photo: via Sotheby’s

In 1920, Hungarian bookseller Gabriel Wells bought an incomplete Gutenberg Bible, and dismantled it in order to sell the fragments in good condition—which he called “Noble Fragments”—for more expensive prices than the ones with damage or missing illustrations (see Eight Pages Stolen From Famous Bible Now Showing At The Met).

Banker Mortimer L. Schiff bought the Book of Esther from Wells in 1921, and in 1922 donated it to the Jewish Theological Seminary, who is now deaccessioning it amid “fiscal woes,” according to Forward.


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