A NOBLE FRAGMENT
A LEAF FROM THE GUTENBERG BIBLE

A single folio leaf (389 x 281 mm.), containing Luke XVII:23–XIX:13 (leaf 230 of volume 2), double column, 42 lines per column, rubricated in red and blue (headlines in alternating red and blue lombard letters, chapter initial in red with numerals alternating in red and blue, red capital strokes).

[Mainz: Printed by Johann Gutenberg & Johann Fust, c. 1450-1455, not after August 1456.]

[mounted in:]

A Noble Fragment: being a Leaf of the Gutenberg Bible, with a Bibliographical Essay by A. Edward Newton. New York, [printed by Bruce Rogers at the shop of William Edwin Rudge for] Gabriel Wells, 1921.

Folio, title printed in red and black and two unnumbered leaves of text; in the original dark blue morocco by Stikeman & Co., boards panelled in blind, upper board and spine lettered in gilt, joints rubbed; preserved in a modern quarter black morocco box by James Brockman.

£100000

Approximately:
US $122090€112049

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A single folio leaf (389 x 281 mm.), containing Luke XVII:23–XIX:13 (leaf 230 of volume 2), double column, 42 lines per column, rubricated in red and blue (headlines in alternating red and blue lombard letters, chapter initial in red with numerals alternating in red and blue, red capital strokes).

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A fine single paper leaf from the first substantial book printed with movable type in the western world, now known simply as the Gutenberg Bible or the 42-line Bible.

The text here is Luke XVII:23–XIX:13, containing some of the most quoted texts in that Gospel: ‘Quicumque quesierit animam sua[m] salvam facere perdet illam. Et quicu[m]que perdiderit illam vivificabit eam’ (‘Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it’, VII:33); ‘Sinite pueros venire ad me et nolite vetare eos. Taliu[m] est enim regnum dei’ (‘Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God’, VIII:16); ‘Facilius est enim camelum per foramen acus transire qua[m] divitem intrare in regnum dei’ (‘For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God’, VIII:25); as well as the parables of the unjust judge, and the Pharisee and tax collector, the healing of the blind beggar, and the conversion of Zacchaeus.

The Gutenberg Bible was printed in an edition of probably 35 copies on vellum and 150 on paper, of which 48 complete or nearly complete copies are extant, 12 on vellum (1 untraced since 1945) and 36 on paper. The Noble Fragment originated with an imperfect copy of the Gutenberg Bible which was divided by Gabriel Wells, a New York book dealer, and dispersed as single leaves or larger fragments, the individual leaves mostly accompanied by A. Edward Newton’s essay, as here. The copy thus broken had previously formed part of the collection of Maria von Sulzbach (1721–1794), wife of Carl Theodore, Electoral Prince of the Palatinate and subsequently Electoral Prince of Bavaria; thence the Hofbibliothek at Mannheim; the Royal Library at Munich (sold as a duplicate in 1832); and Robert Curzon, Baron Zouche (1810–1873) and his descendants. It was sold at auction in 1920 (Sotheby’s, 9th Nov., lot 70) to Joseph Sabin, who in turn sold it to Wells.

PMM 1; Sparrow, Milestones of Science 22; Dibner, Heralds of Science 171.