Sold to a Swiss collector for a record €840,000 (£717,950), it was part of a Ketterer Kunst (25% buyer’s premium) auction held in Hamburg .
This was the Bible that was produced for Gutenberg’s original partner and financial backer, Johannes Fust, after the two men fell out and Fust entered into a new printing partnership with Gutenberg’s former assistant, Peter Schöffer.
This 48-line Bible was printed using a smaller but subsequently very popular typeface known as Gotica Antiqua.
It was also the first book to bear the names of its printers and the place and date of its completion, along with a recognisable printer’s or publisher’s device and colophon, a note giving details about the book, its author, printer, date, etc that are now found in the opening pages
In an 18th century binding of diced Russia gilt incorporating 15th century brass corner and centrepieces, it is one of only 20 complete vellum copies now recorded.
Along with the ex-Doheny/Ortiz-Patiño copy that made $700,000 on its last saleroom appearance, at Sotheby’s New York in 1998, it is one of just three believed to remain in private hands.
A particularly handsome illuminated page is reproduced top, but the decorative initials found on its pages are said to be in two different northern Italian styles and from different periods. Three large historiated initials that form part of its decoration are believed to be the work of Guglielmo Giraldi.
This beautiful work was last seen auction at Christie’s in 2002, when it was offered as part of Beriah Botfield’s great library: a collection long resident at Longleat, home of the Marquesses of Bath.
In the early 1830s Botfield had paid £157 for it, but in that Longleat sale the price was £320,000.
A spread from the Bible and that colophon and printer’s device were both illustrated in International Events, ATG No 2412.
The sale at Ketterer Kunst took place on November 25